Built in 1885, the theatre was used for a wide range of events from military balls to political rallies, including the congregation of St Paul’s Church, whose iron church had burnt down.
In 1909 it was converted into Colwyn Bay’s first “picture house” making Theatr Colwyn the oldest operating cinema in the UK. Sadly even the advent of the “talkies” couldn’t save the business and the venue, now called The Rialto, closed in 1930. Then disaster struck and a fire tore through the roof, causing it to fall into the auditorium.
It reopened as the “New Rialto Repertory Theatre” in 1936 with a new roof and stage and under the leadership of actor / manager Stanley Ravenscroft. Initially leasing the building for 9 weeks, he stayed for 22 years, living with his black cat in a flat over the auditorium. With the unexpected boost of thousands of Ministry of Food employees moving to the town during World War 2, audiences surged.
Bought by the Council in 1959, it became the “Prince of Wales”. Its rep was a massive success and for the next four decades this featured heavily in the theatre’s programme.
In 1991, as part of a modernisation programme, the name changed again to “Theatr Colwyn”. Since then cinema has been reintroduced alongside drama, dance, gigs, musicals, and school shows. It now also has its own recording studio and band rehearsal room.