Albany Ward (Hannam Edward Bonnor)

British exhibitor

Albany Ward was born in London in 1879, and was educated at Christ's Hospital. He saw his first film show in 1896, and soon afterwards joined the Velograph Company, managed by Adolphe Langfier, as principal operator (projectionist). By day he worked in their printing and developing rooms, by night projecting their films as a turn in the music hall programmes of the Palace Theatre, Croydon, the Metropolitan, Edgware Road, and other music hall syndicate theatres. At that time the image was projected from behind rather than from the front of house. This was achieved by a fine calico screen thoroughly dampened with a mixture of water and glycerine. Major variety stars, and especially Marie Lloyd, he recalled, strongly objected to the wet effect this had on the stage. He toured the provinces with a full version of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (1897), which he turned into a complete show by linking the films with songs from a vocalist and interludes by an entertainer. He left Velograph in 1898 to go out on his own, and toured the West of England, being the first moving picture exhibitor to reach parts of Devon, Cornwall and Wales. Ward introduced sound effects to accompany these shows, and had great success synchronising noises to various 'Phantom Rides' as trains passed through cuttings and tunnels. Also effective were his noises off during war scenes of battles in the Graeco-Turkish War, the Boer War, and similar. On 1 January 1900 Ward leased a hall in Cowley Road, Oxford, opening it as the Empire Theatre with a combination of films and variety acts. A great success was Georges Méliès' Trip to the Moon, especially when his sound effects were added. In 1906 Ward established his first permanent theatre in Weymouth, and built up a circuit which he eventually sold to PCT (Provincial Cinematograph Theatres Ltd) in 1920.

Denis Gifford