A FORMER cinema which has stood for almost a century, is being bulldozed because it is in a dangerous state.

The building in Market Street, Westhoughton, started life as The Empire Cinema in May, 1914, when audiences flocked to watch the top films of the day.

It later became the Gaiety Club and attracted famous rock and roll stars and the American film star Jayne Mansfield.

It ended its life as a snooker club and has been disused for the past 10 years.

There are no plans for its future but it may be used for retail purposes.

Pam Clarke, president of Westhoughton Local History Group, said: “My mum, Kath Howarth used to work as a projectionist during the Second World War.

“Older people will remember the penny rush, the children's Saturday afternoon matinee, with Hopalong Cassidy, Three Stooges and Flash Gordon.

Others will remember the queue outside on the street on Saturday night, and the rush for the double seats for courting couples at the back. I was sad when the cinema closed but The Gaiety was a club so it was a bit exotic. I can remember Wee Willy Harris, a rock and roll singer, and Jayne Mansfield going there.”

In the 1930s, whenever a tram came past the cinema, a pick-up arm on the turntable—used to play the soundtrack — would move to the next grove causing chaos for cinema goers.

An employee stood on the roof of the sweet shop and waited for the tram to come so a coin could be placed on the pick-up arm.

Cllr David Wilkinson, who represents Westhoughton South, said: “A shop would be better than an empty building.” He added he had approached the owner more than 10 years ago to see if the building could be used for a youth drop in service but a lease long enough could not be agreed.

Cllr David Chadwick, who represents Westhoughton South, welcomed the demolition as he believed the building had been an eyesore for more than 10 years