Cinema's golden age reaches the final reel

They brought glamour into simple lives, but Britain's Art Deco picture palaces are being pulled down by developers with grand ideas

The bulldozers were hard at work last week in Lancaster, wreaking destruction on the 1936 Regal cinema in King Street. It was a classic example of Art Deco cinema design, but today all that is left of it is rubble.

More than 20 of Britain's 1930s cinemas could face a similar fate, as developers seek to strip out their interiors or raze them to the ground.

The ornate 1934 front of the Doncaster Odeon was turned to dust last month, to make way for a leisure complex, and the Newcastle Odeon – a 1931 former Paramount cinema – is now facing demolition after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport rejected a listing application.

Even the UK capital of cinema, Leicester Square in the heart of London, is not immune. The historic Odeon West End, which has dominated the corner of the square for more than 80 years, is facing a redesign that will relegate screens to the basement, to allow a hotel, flats and a restaurant to be built on upper storeys.

David Trevor-Jones, chairman of the Cinema Theatre Association, which campaigns to save the buildings, said: "We're losing swathes of and it's a tragedy. We live in a world of corporations and cheap architecture, but these buildings take you to another place. They're all about grandeur and supreme fantasy."

The association claims that the architectural significance of cinemas is overlooked because they are considered lowbrow. "I think cinemas are still undervalued; no town would willingly lose its Victorian theatre, but the same isn't the case for iconic cinema buildings," said Mr Trevor-Jones. "They're part of our social and cultural history, but they have no protection."

Many of the 22 buildings now at risk have not been functioning cinemas for years, but have been protected in their original state by accommodating bingo halls. Elain Harwood, a senior architectural investigator at English Heritage, says the demise of bingo has sounded the death knell for some of Britain's oldest cinema buildings.

"The bingo halls were the great saviour of old cinemas," she explained. "When a lot of the old cinema and theatre buildings closed in the late Fifties and early Sixties they were turned into bingo halls and therefore preserved. In the last two years, since the smoking ban, bingo has been in freefall and loads of cinema buildings are now out of use. Even those that are Grade II-star listed are under threat, because they have been empty for so long."

There are just under 200 listed cinemas in England, of which 26 have a Grade II listing that protects the whole building. This does not stop the threat of developers, however, if a building remains disused for some time. The only cinema with Grade I protection is the former Granada in Tooting, south London.

Under threat...

Odeon, Newcastle upon Tyne Faces the bulldozers after de-listing by the Department of Culture

The former Imperial, Crawley To be partly knocked down, making way for flats

Odeon, Doncaster Demolished last month to make way for new development

Odeon, Cheltenham Bought by a nightclub operator

Odeon West End, Leicester Square Cinema screens to be moved to basement so upper storeys can be redeveloped.

Whiteladies Picture House, Bristol Grade II listed, but now faces conversion to church or shops

New Olympia, Todmorden, Yorkshire Turned into a Kwik Save store, and now the whole building faces demolition for housing

Cineworld, Ealing Everything demolished apart from the façade, to make a bigger cinema

Torbay Cinema, Paignton Owned by rail station next door, which wants to turn it into a ticket hall

Odeon Orion, Cleveleys Just closed as a bingo hall and is not listed; now facing an uncertain future

State Cinema, Grays, Essex Closed and unused since 1991; now the owner wants to convert it to host conferences

Odeon, Lancaster Was a Gala bingo hall, but is now being bulldozed for a Travelodge hotel to be built on site

Odeon, Chester Proposals to turn it into a giant nightclub

ABC Streatham Interior has been replaced by flats, but now the façade too is at risk

Picturedrome, Sleaford Became a nightclub, which is now closed. Now under threat

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
News
Cumberbatch spectacularly photobombs U2 at the Oscars
news
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

News
Will menus with calorie counts really deter junk-food addicts from eating junk?
i100
Sport
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
football
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
i100
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

2nd Line server support - Microsoft certified

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large organisa...

Year 1 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required...

Year 5/6Teacher needed - Roath, Cardiff

£100 - £105 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The...

Reception Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?