Luton's cinema scene was still in its infancy when the Great War broke out. The town's first purpose-built cinema, the Anglo American Electric Picture Palace, had opened in Gordon Street in October 1909, followed by the Picturedrome in Park Street in April 1911, the Wellington in Wellington Street in May 1912, the High Town Electric Picture Theatre in August 1912 and the Palace, Mill Street, in December 1912.
The Palace (pictured in the 1920s) was the biggest and most luxurious. It also offered another plus in June 1915 - a chance for Lutonians with relatives in the Bedfordshire Regiment to see their kinsmen on the big screen. The Bedfordshires had been specially filmed to illustrate life in a service battalion.
Three thousand feet of film had been taken at the Kempston Barracks, at the Ampthill Camp and in the grounds of Hinchingbrooke Castle by skilled operator Mr W. N. Blake, of Bedford. The film had been sanctioned by the War Office and produced under the direction of the Officer Commanding the 10th Recruiting Area.
Following its showing in Bedford, management of the Palace had secured it for screening in Luton on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 7th-9th, at 6.15 and 9 o'clock each evening plus a matinee performance on the Wednesday.
Officers and men from Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Huntingdonshire figured in the production, and the spectators would be able to "see their relatives and friends at work without having to make a more or less long journey for the purpose".
The film showed the men enlisting, taking the oath of allegiance, drawing clothing and necessaries, and being fitted for uniform. Thereafter soldiers were shown at work and play, including drilling on the Barracks Square.
"Excellent views of the training camp at Ampthill are shown," said The Luton News. "There is bayonet fighting, drawing dinners, boot inspecting, and the battalion forming and marching in mass, headed by the Commanding Officer, the Duke of Bedford, Major F. A. Stevens (Second-in-Command) and Major Nelson (Adjutant) - all clearly and picturesquely recorded."
[The Palace subsequently changed its name to the Gaumont in November 1914 and became the Majestic Ballroom in October 1962 before converting to a bingo hall. The building was destroyed by fire in December 1982. Supplementary information from Eddie Graham's book, From Grand To Grove].
[The Luton News, June 3rd, 1915]