Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Leading Man of Tyneside Cinema; MR ESSOLDO HAD EMPIRE OF 200 THEATRES REMEMBER WHEN A BLAST FROM THE PAST

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Leading Man of Tyneside Cinema; MR ESSOLDO HAD EMPIRE OF 200 THEATRES REMEMBER WHEN A BLAST FROM THE PAST

Article excerpt

Byline: RAY MARSHALL

HE WAS the founder of the massive Essoldo cinema circuit, but what many didn't know is that he was a publicity-shunning big charity donor.

Solomon Sheckman, who died 45 years ago this week, was born in North Shields in 1893 and remained faithful to his native Tyneside all his life.

Even at the height of his success he always insisted he had no intention of leaving his Westgate Road offices for London.

Once every major film studio had offices on Westgate Road, but as they pulled out one by one, Sol never deserted his favourite city.

"I am happier here in Newcastle," he once said, even though at one time he owned 196 cinemas and halls nationwide.

He came from humble beginnings, working with his brothers for his dad's seamen's outfitting store.

The Sheckman boys would row out to dimly-lit newly arrived ships on the Tyne while others still slept, armed with only a welcoming word and goods from the shop.

It was a tough life but it was where Sol adopted his work ethic.

At the tender age of 15, just a year after he left school, Sol bought his first cinema - a Sunderland fleapit called the Gaiety.

When he died in 1963, at the age of 70, he still owned more than 160 cinemas.

His dynamic personality and keen financial brain stood him in good stead for building up the biggest independent cinema group in the business and the third largest chain in the country.

Many have wondered where the name Essoldo came from - simple, the ES came from his wife Esther; SOL came from himself; and DO came from his daughter, Dorothy.

After the Gaiety he bought cinemas steadily and carefully, but always successfully, although this was a time when TV and bingo where a real threat to the industry.

Sol's business was also his hobby, but he still managed to stay focused and the expansion of his empire was watched with interest. Sol would make sure he regularly toured his cinemas to check things out for himself and it is said he was as concerned with the most junior member of any staff as with the manager. …

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