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History The Art Deco cinema was designed for the Union Cinema Circuit by renowned architects Verity and Beverley. It opened on 23rd July 1937 but was shortly taken over by ABC (Associated British Cinemas) in October that year. It became a Ritz in the 60’s and was used as a cinema up until it’s closure on 18th June 1984 when it was taken over as a bingo hall until that then closed in 2008. Grade II listed due to it’s highly decorative interior of an Art Deco, Neo-Egyptian and Chinoiserie inspired decoration. Which of very few survive now. Here’s a pretty cool video I’ve linked from Youtube with some cracking old images of the place along with a recording of the Compton Organ being played there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-Ej2LEqDEQ Our Visit I’d seen @AndyK and @Spidermonkey had been here a few weeks back, followed by @dweebs report also, so with the 28 meet being in Brum it was the perfect opportunity to get over and have a look. Pretty straight forward as it seems it had quite a bit of traffic earlier in the week to which I noticed the lights were on. Which is ideal as it’s a pain in the arse light painting these massive auditoriums. Visited with @ferret, @drew howe and @slayaaa. Not too much left from it’s cinema days but still a good un non the less. Pics I’ve included a couple of old photos dragged up from Google and a couple of screengrabs of the above mentioned video for comparison. Starting with some externals Foyer Moving onto the auditorium Some old graffiti behind the stage/screen area A lot of money for it’s day this, and still now to be fair. I certainly wouldn’t mind winning that. Original seating, covered in cobwebs. and to finish on “The shot”
Explored this place (finally) tonight with Swamp_donkey. This cinema has changed hands more times than my car! It started life as a Ritz Cinema in 1934, and was billed as "Kent's most luxurious cinema" with 1600 seats. It then become the Essoldo in 1954 and it was subsequently split into two screens, although both the stalls and the circle were kept intact, leading to a surprisingly large Screen 1 in the original stalls, rather than 2 smaller screens downstairs with a bigger one upstairs as usually happens. In 1972 Classic acquired the cinema and added a third screen in the restaurant area where, as music folklore has it, David Bowie's parents met each other. This screen had the odd arrangement of a pirescope contraption in order to project the films, as there was no room for a projector room. It was also tiny for a cinema! Cannon took it over along with the Classic chain in 1982. Subsequently it became an MGM, briefly a Virgin and finally an ABC in 1996, becoming obsolete in 1999, when Odeon (by then sharing a parent company with ABC) opened their multiplex outside the town. Sadly now the place is a total mess, it's due for demolition any week now once the planners sort out their dispute with Railtrack. Why railtrack? Well a railway tunnel runs directly under the cinema, I can verify this as we could hear trains in the tunnel about every 20 minutes while we were there, a very eerie noise that is. Railtrack have haulted any work on site until the demolition company can garuntee that it won't affect the integrity of their railway tunnel. Bonus for us, because it was supposed to have gone by now! (External shot and historical information from http://oldcinemas.webplex.co.uk/tunbridgewells/) Foyer area Leading to the cinema screens, and what was formely the refreshments and snack shop. Screen 1 looking forward Looking Back We were able to get under what would have been the stage area and there were all sorts of interesting bits and pieces stashed away Ladies rest room, possiblly the most un-touched room in the place (apart from the druggy needles in the sinks ) We then ventured into the projector room for screen 1. This had all sorts of stuff scattered everywhere. Sadly no complete projectors, part of one remained thou. Yes that does say 'Billion Dillar Boner' on it. Subsequent googling has revieled it to be a woody woodpeker cartoon, and not a porn film Screen 2 upstairs in what would have been the circle area. Through the modern suspended ceiling the building reveils a glimse of it's former glory. Then we find Screen 3, which was the former restaurant. This was tiny for a cinema screen, and had a post in the middle. Doh! You can still see the remains of the piriscope projection device on the ceiling, which was very crudely made from steel bars bolted together. I didn't venture too far into this room, the floor didn't look good. Lastly we needed to find the second projection booth, very odd this as the only access was by venturing out onto the roof, there was no internal door linking it to the rest of the building. It was stripped totally, apart from this amazing pannel of swiches and dimmers, which must be origenal from the 1930's when the cinema opened. And finally, popcorn anyone? Although it's trashed, I still liked it Maniac.