Bioscope Presenters: George Green

George Green was probably one of the most successful of the showmen who pioneered the cinematograph on the fairground. With Randall Williams he was one of the original pioneers of fairground cinema, when he exhibited moving pictures at the Carnival building in December 1896. According to a letter from his son Herbert in 1946, George Green visited London with his brother John in the autumn of 1896 and purchased a theatrograph of Robert W. Paul. After many hours of practice the family exhibited films in the Carnival during the Christmas festivities, however, it did not appear on the fairground until 1898.

Although George Green travelled several large shows, including the ex-Leo American Exhibition, the most extravagant was one he purchased from President Kemp in 1913, the Theatre Unique. This show was advertised for sale in the World's Fair at the beginning of August and the For Sale column provides us with a detailed description of the show, its seating capacity and interior decorations.

The Theatre Unique could claim to be one of the most lavish shows ever travelled throughout the United Kingdom and part of the great shows constructed by Orton and Spooners from 1906 onwards. It had been purchased from Orton and Spooners in 1908 around a new 104 key Marenghi organ. The cost of the organ alone was £2,000, with the centre truck constructed to carry twenty tons, costing in the region of three hundred pounds. The organ was lowered onto the truck which then opened out to form a fifty foot parading stage. The two carved and gilded staircases which were surmounted by four tall elegant columns from which arc lamps were suspended, cost a further three hundred pounds. The booth supposedly held over one thousand people and measured forty feet by seventy two feet.

George Green travelled the Theatre Unique with the ex-Leo show and replaced the original ground booth show. The decline in popularity of these shows is illustrated by the continual For Sale notices made regarding these shows.

In 1914 John Green, George Green's oldest son, died and George announced his retirement from the road in order to look after their increasingly successful picture houses, which they had opened as early as 1904, in Scotland. By the time of his retirement as a showman in 1914, George Green had opened a circuit of numerous picture palaces in and around Glasgow, Dundee and Ayr. The World's Fair in 1914 lists that George Green had ten cinemas, however other sources show that it was possibly thirteen. He had also opened a film hire and production company known as Greens of Glasgow, and a cinema construction company.

George Green died in 1915 but his sons continued to expand the cinema business into one of the most successful in the United Kingdom, with the opening of Green's Glasgow playhouse in 1927. The Green's family dominance in the cinema business was further consolidated by opening of the marginally smaller Playhouses in Dundee and Ayr. His sons went on to expand the Movie Reel business into the 1920s with the production of various newsreels entitled Greens of London and Glasgow. They also became involved in producing propaganda films for the War Office, in particular the Patriotic Porker (1916).