Cinematopia: UK picture palaces
Essential reading for Old Cinema enthusiasts

[ Essential | Organisations | Books | Articles and statistics | Informal | Local interest ]

Essential resources

Cinematopia essential resource For the UK-based Old Cinema fan, there is probably no better place to start than Odeon Cavalcade, an outstanding collection of hundreds of vintage photographs mainly of Odeon cinemas taken in the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies. The site's author also has a smaller collection of other and more modern cinemas.

Cinematopia essential resource Cinema Treasures - probably the world's most comprehensive database of picture palaces, including a vast number of individual cinema histories and tables of data by location, architect, circuit and status (i.e. whether or not it's been demolished). Although US-based, there's plenty of information on UK cinemas including, sadly, reports and photographs of a number of recent demolitions and collapses.

Cinematopia essential resource By 1935, Oscar Deutsch had already built a huge number of beautiful Modernist and Art Deco cinemas across the country. He commissioned John Maltby, a London-based photographer, to document his achievements in radical architecture, resulting in a stunning collection of highly detailed exterior, interior and "night-architecture" shots. These now reside in the National Archive, which has a brief taster. The complete collection can be viewed via English Heritage Viewfinder. An undisputably crucial resource.

Organisations

* Cinema Theatre Association - UK organisation dedicated to historic cinema buildings, which organises visits, lectures and special events.

* Mercia Cinema Society - UK-wide cinema building appreciation society and publisher.

* So you thought it was a bit weird to be fanatical about Old Cinemas, huh? Well, FYI, there's even a very active group dedicated to the preservation, restoration and ultimately performance of Cinema Organs, that mounts regular concerts around the country on surviving Wurlitzers, Comptons and the like.

* The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England used to have a selection of cinemas in its website, until the collection was amalgamated into English Heritage. Fortunately, on the web, nothing really dies, and the page and associated photographs are available at RCHME's entry at Archive.org for April 1999.

Books

* Allen Eyles (Amazon) - probably the most prolific and authoritative writer on the history of British cinema circuits including Gaumont, ABC, Granada and Odeon as well as local cinemas and a long-time contributor the film exhibition section of the BFI Film & Television Yearbook. Also the author of Old Cinemas (book / Amazon) - not affiliated to Cinematopia Old Cinemas, but a really interesting (and inexpensive) little book for fans of cine-architecture which neatly sums up everything exciting about this apparently esoteric subject.

Cinematopia essential resource Amazon also sell Cinemas In Britain by Richard Gray, a fantastic guide to the development of cinema architecture in the UK, including references to statutorily listed cinema buildings and unlisted cinemas of note.

Articles and statistics

* Cinema Statistics - TerraMedia's fascinating statistics for cinemas circuits in the UK between 1914 and 1969. Shows the ebb and flow of the various major circuits but also the sheer volume of smaller circuits.

* Ketupa.net - a "media industry resource" with detailed histories and company information for many film exhibitors.

* The Mogul's Monuments - article in The Guardian exploring "how Odeon cinemas taught Britain to love modern architecture".

Informal

* Surviving Cinemas - comprehensive guide to the old cinemas of Scotland.

* Stagedoor @ Flickr - photographs of cinemas and theatres, many taken in the late 1980s, many of the cinemas that have since been demolished. Also see Flickr Cinema Pool.

* Movie Bunker - site dedicated to cinema exhibition, including the buildings themselves, multiplexes and all.

* CinePhoto.co.uk - haphazard and sprawling collection of photographs (that seem to have spilled over onto CinePhoto2.co.uk).

* Picture Palace - site by a professional freelance writer that has many of the same aims as Cinematopia.

* CinemaTour - a bit like Cinema Treasures, but less discerning about which cinema buildings are included.

* Urban Exploration, or Urbex, is a pastime undertaken on the periphery of the law, in which people (carefully) break into abandoned hospitals, factories and power stations, in order to document and photograph - often in highly artistic fashion using professional equipment - what lies within. Inevitably, some cinemas have been explored and the photos taken by the Urbexers are often the last record of the interior of an old cinema before it is demolished forever. As such, while trespass is illegal and should not be condoned, there is an argument that Urbexers are providing a unique and highly valuable service to society. There are plenty of websites dedicated to Urban Exploration; try 28 Days Later (named after the film in which London is seen completely deserted) for a useful start.

Local interest

* Brighton
* BrightonFilm.com - very detailed history of cinema in Brighton.

* Cambridge
* Cambridge Stuff cinemas - a comprehensive history of cinemas in the city of Cambridge by Andy Gale, hosted right here at WebPlex, including rare archive photographs from the Cambridgeshire Collection of the Central Library.

* Cheltenham
* Cheltenham Cinema's [sic] - notwithstanding the spurious apostrophe, this aims to be a detailed account that does what it says on the tin. Although currently under construction, of particular interest are the photographs of the interior of the now defunct Odeon / Gaumont Palace.

* Chester
* History of Cinema in Chester - some fascinating stories from all of Chester's cinemas, including the bizarre allegation that the beautiful Gaumont Palace cinema was ruined and nearly demolished by accident when Rank sent the builders to the wrong one of their cinemas in the city.

* Gloucester
* Living Gloucester cinemas - guide to the former picture palaces of Gloucester.

* Hove
* Granada Cinema - a loving and very comprehensive look at a magnificent Art Deco building, now scheduled for demolition. Also includes an interesting overview of the history of the Granada chain.

* London
* Dark Screens - histories of many of London's lost cinemas, including those now put to other uses (often bingo). Some stunning buildings preserved here: check out the Granada Tooting. Very highly recommended site.
* Picture Palaces Past And Present - photographs for sale, spanning the years that the photographer worked as a projectionist.
* Old Cinemas - photographs of London's old cinemas (apparently a work in progress).
* Picture Palaces - photographs and histories of Greater London's oldest cinema buildings.

* Newcastle
* Save Newcastle Paramount - one of the last remaining original Paramount Theatres in the UK which was listed and then de-listed by the DCMS.

* Northampton
* Cannon Cinema - a detailed academic historical survey of the former ABC / Savoy cinema, including photographs.

* Walthamstow
* McGuffins - a society dedicated to saving Walthamstow's beautiful former Odeon / EMD cinema, which just happened to be Alfred Hitchcock's local when he was a boy. Although mostly a local issue, the recent history of the building gives a heartbreaking insight into the problems facing cinema enthusiasts. "Over the weekend of 26-27 January 2003, an illegal rave party was held at the cinema and sound equipment, original furniture and fittings were looted from the building. Many areas of the cinema were covered in graffiti and the unique Christie Organ was also damaged."

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This page last updated 4th March 2007.