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Ulster log: Picture this! Two city cinemas with same name

By Eddie McIlwaine

You're not going to believe this - but Belfast once upon a time had two cinemas sharing the same name. The Princess Picture Palace was on one side of the Newtownards Road - it opened in 1910 and closed in 1926. And the more stylish Princess, with its spectacular tower, was directly across the road.

And yes, that name game caused great confusion among cinema-goers and the owners W.J. Anderson (of The Princess Palace which had been a funeral parlour at one time) and Ferris Pound (of The Princess, newer of the two and built in 1912) were always feuding. Their rows would have made a good film.

Just why they shared a name at all is hard to understand, but The Princess appears to have had more success drawing in audiences until 1960.

In the early days film fans distinguished between the two by calling one the Old One and the other the New One.

Admission prices way back were three old pence, rising to sixpence for the better seats, or patrons could get in to see the big picture (silent, of course, in the beginning) or stone jam jars were accepted instead of cash for a ticket, the jars having a trade-in value of tuppence at the nearby fruit shop.

Just why was The Princess name so popular? Perhaps someone out there will come up with the answer. Were they called after a real princess?

The walls of The Princess were adorned with pictures of the stars of the day. It was an 800-seater picture house and if you wanted to be in the front stalls for a better view of the screen you had to sit on a wooden bench.

But why did owner Pound want a set of sails attached to the tower at his Princess? They were never hooked in place, so far as I'm aware. Perhaps Mr Pound was a sailor.

Lily has a fairytale time with Sir Ken

Kenneth Branagh is delighted that Lily James, the girl with the irresistible laugh, is the young lady everybody wants to gaze at in his native Belfast. In Sir Ken’s latest movie, Cinderella, she plays a Cinders as irresistible as her giggle, and this latest version of the fairytale is breaking box office records everywhere. Meanwhile, at the Movie House, on Dublin Road, Belfast, Branagh, on a rare visit home, dropped in to have a look at his latest production.

Lily, from TV’s Downton Abbey and Ken worked well together. “He stood in occasionally as Prince Charming at rehearsals and really was charming,” she reveals. In one shot Lily was  even filmed talking to mice. “But it was cut from the final production,” she adds.

When our Patrick really made a dog’s dinner of it

Patrick Kielty is the most refreshing comedian around, his stories are always original and I look forward to seeing him back at the Grand Opera House next month.

But, having said all that, what comes to mind first when PK’s name is mentioned is the way he used to tuck into a tin of dog food.

It happened on his hit BBC series, way back when Patrick was still based in Northern Ireland. Some folk will tell you it wasn’t doggie food at all, but he assured me at the time that it was. And I believed him.

I’m sure PK has moved on to tastier bits and pieces these days. Tell you something else — away from comedy he is a superb actor. I’ll never forget him in A Night In November at the Opera House. It’s time he did another play. He’s at the Opera House from April 8 until April 11 and at the Forum in Londonderry on April 24 and 25.

Is Belfast Festival just too elitist?

There hasn't been a protest from the public about the financial quagmire Belfast Festival is in because QUB has pulled sponsorship. I reckon that's because the  festival is an elitist occasion that attracts a minority of folk to most of its events. The rank and file in the sticks aren't bothered that it could be axed.

I've been writing about the festival since the early days with the great director, the late Michael Barnes, who had an uncanny knack of bringing in artists who appealed to all sides of our community. Don't get me wrong - I've enjoyed it down the years. I actually hosted a festival concert once upon a time - 1983 to be exact. It would be a shame if lack of funds brought it to an end.

When English media proves trying

The headline in a national newspaper read 'England inches from a miracle'. It should have been 'Ireland in a sensational Six Nations triumph'. Even the English sports writers can't stomach it when the England rugby team are beaten and their loss to France assured Ireland's victory.

Well done to captain Paul O'Connell and the Irish squad. And also the Irish women's rugby team which won their Six Nations, too. Captain Niamh Briggs is the woman entrusted with leading Ireland to the 2017 World Cup, which the IRFU hopes to host in Dublin and Belfast.

We must have been barking mad

Sitting quietly in the Robin's Nest Pub in Railway Street, Lisburn one evening, a fella with a windswept look arrived at the bar, accompanied by a Great Dane.

He got talking about the dog and how partial it was to a pint of Guinness. So we put it to the test and, sure enough, Andy the dog lapped up his booze from a dish. One thing led to another and Andy ended up pie-eyed. "That's his problem," said his master, "he doesn't know when to stop." Eventually my sojourn ended with a phone call telling me my dinner was about to be served. "Sorry I'm late," I explained. "I had to buy a Great Dane a drink."

I remembered that night the other day when I noticed the pub is now called the Cardan Bar & Grill and serves food.

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