Longford Cinema, opposite Stretford Mall on the eastern side of the A56 Chester Road, is perhaps the most visually striking building in the town. Designed by the architect Henry Elder, it was the height of Art Deco fashion when it was opened by the Mayor of Stretford in 1936. Its unusual “cash register” frontage was intended to symbolise the business aspect of show business.
The building incorporated many modern features such as sound-proofing and under-seat heating, and it was also the first cinema in Britain to make use of concealed neon lighting. It had a seating capacity of 1400 in the stalls and 600 in the circle, with a further 146 seats in the café area. When built, the cinema had a short pedestrian approach to the facade, which was removed when the A56 road was widened. During the Second World War the building was used for concerts, including one given by a young Julie Andrews. It also played host to the Hallé Orchestra after the orchestra’s own home, the Free Trade Hall, was bombed and severely damaged during the Manchester BlitzThe Manchester Blitz (also known as the Christmas Blitz) was the heavy bombing of the city of Manchester and its surrounding areas in North West England during the Second World War by the Nazi German Luftwaffe. of 1940.
After a change of ownership in 1950, the cinema was renamed the Stretford Essoldo. It continued to operate as a cinema until 1965, when it was converted into a bingo hall, which it remained until its closure in 1995. The building has been unused since then. Elder’s only surviving cinema building, it was designated a Grade II listed building in 1994.
In 2017 a proposal was put forward by Trafford Council to bring the Essoldo back into public use as part of the new University Academy 92.