MEMORIES of watching Tarzan, the Marx Brothers, Bogart and Bacall, and even Sean Connery in his first James Bond film, sat in the stalls in places like the Powys Cinema at Machynlleth or the Cosy Cinema at Dolgellau, are evoked in a new book ‘The Cinemas of West Wales’, writes County Times arts editor, Barry Jones.

Former cinema projectionist Alan Phillips gathers together a selection of the region’s lost picture houses where generations enjoyed films on the big screen, along and near the west coast from Barmouth in the north down to Llanelli in the south, accompanied by many rare pictures of the interiors and exteriors of the variety of buildings used.

In 1939 there were 4,902 cinemas still open in Wales but numbers started to decline from the 1950s on as television started to eat away at audience numbers.

One that closed in 1954 was the Picture House or Pavilion Cinema at Aberdovey, originally an ex-army building and surviving now as the refurbished Neuadd Dyfi.

Moving pictures were first shown at Machynlleth in 1900 with travelling showmen using suitable halls before the Powys Cinema was built in Heol Powys in the 1930s. It is now apartments.

Aberystwyth was blessed with a number of cinemas including one on the pier from 1912 to 1961, as well as the old Kings Hall, Cheetham’s Picture Palace and Electric Theatre, the grand Coliseum Theatre, the Imperial or Forum Cinema, the Conway and Celtic cinemas, and the only survivor, the Commodore Cinema.

Barmouth’s New White Cinema opened in 1923 but closed at the end of the 1950s, while the Pavilion on the promenade made it into the 1960s.

The quaintly named Cosy Cinema at Dolgellau was part of the Assembly Rooms in Eldon Square, while the town’s other cinema, the Plaza, was purpose built in 1944 but closed in 1984 and is now the site of a new police station.

One successful survivor has been at Tywyn, where the Magic Lantern Theatre has made it onto the UK’s best independent cinema list.

But it nearly didn’t make it having started out as the Assembly Rooms where films started to be shown as part of touring shows in the early 1900s. Later it became the Tywyn Cinema, and briefly the Talking Cinema before refurbishment in 2000 and Mark Bond and Geoff Hill taking on the lease with the new name in 2010.

This is a splendid little book not just for those interested in local history but also fans of the Britain’s great old picture palaces.