Trying to collect photographs in Brighton is not actually an easy task. For one thing, the prevailing architectural style of the city is one of theatrical flamboyance which means that nearly half of all buildings look like they might once have been a cinema of some kind. In fact, of the 33 cinemas listed by BrightonFilm.com, the vast majority have now been demolished or transformed beyond easy recognition. Those that remain tend to be significantly run down.
Cinema in the city is today represented by a modern Cineworld multiplex - an inheritance from Cannon's period of massive expansion in the 1980s; the independent Duke Of York's, programmed by the Picture Houses group of cinemas run by City Screen; and a seafront Odeon which is, perhaps, the least attractive cinema ever built. Cinematopia doesn't intend to make a habit of displaying pictures of multiplexes, but in this case, we are prepared to make an exception for educational purposes:
On the plus side, Brighton does have a handful of statutorily listed cinemas and ex-cinemas, shown below.
Opened 1933; closed 1977 and subsequently operated as a bingo hall until 1997. A full record of the history of this Grade II listed building appears at BrightonFilm.com.
Despite being listed and despite an entry at Cinema Treasures strongly suggesting that there is still interest in reviving the Astoria as a performance venue (it was built with a fly tower so it's suitable for theatre as well as film), it was thoroughly disheartening to see the state that it has fallen into. There is significant damage to the front facade. The apparently gravity-defying graffiti has presumably been there since the building was scaffolded several years ago.
Incidentally, the reason the light is so bad in these photographs is because dusk crept up on me a bit: I'd decided to walk a little way down Lewes Road to try and find the Gaiety before it got too dark, and got a bit carried away. In the event I was too late: the Gaiety has been demolished and replaced by a petrol station.
Opened in 1910 and still working as a cinema today, the Duke Of York's has a strong claim to being Britain's oldest continuously-operated cinema. A full record of the history of this Grade II listed building appears at BrightonFilm.com.
Yes, that is indeed a giant pair of legs emerging from the top left of the front facade. No, I don't know why they are there. Yes, they are gloriously eccentric.
Granada Hove (historical / preservation site)
The Granada, Hove, opened in 1933 but wasn't actually a part of the Granada circuit. It was instead one of a pair of cinemas leased by Granada's owners, the Bernsteins, to a separate operator entirely. It was eventually acquired by ABC who kept the Granada name - an odd decision, given that ABC and Granada would have been bitter rivals at the time. Note the large fly tower, implying a significant emphasis on live performances as well as film. The cinema converted to bingo in 1974 and later, in a slightly surreal twist, was acquired by the actual Granada group which, by then, had mostly pulled out of film exhibition entirely in favour of bingo. The building closed entirely in 2003. A full record of the history of this building appears at BrightonFilm.com.
Granada Hove - site containing historical information and photographs of the interior.
When I visited, the exterior was in obviously poor condition. A "sold" sign implies that this building's days are numbered.
Cinematopia doesn't normally list theatres, but this has a place on the BrightonFilm.com list as it showed films at weekends, so we'll make an exception. Later acquired by Rank's Mecca Bingo - an odd purchase, given that Rank had four Odeon cinemas (excluding the multiplex) in the town which it chose to demolish rather than convert to bingo.
At the time of visiting, the Hippodrome was closed down and covered in scaffolding. However, the building looked in much better shape than the Astoria or Granada.
Opened in 1930 by Associated British Cinemas and followed the trajectory typical of ABCs, finally closing in 1999. The cinema was unusual in that it had a second entrance on the seafront (not pictured here; see CinemaTreasures for pictures). The building subsequently hosted bars and clubs. A full record of the history of this building appears at BrightonFilm.com.
Although both BrightonFilm.com and CinemaTreasures seem to reference the fact that it's still alive and kicking in the form of a bar, when I visited, it was boarded up and deserted. Perhaps more worryingly, closer inspection of the decorative architectural features above and to the right of the main entrance shows that they have been strapped into place at some point: presumably this Art Deco building wasn't exactly built to last.
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This page last updated 24th November 2006.