Bijou Cinema, Bexhill-on-Sea.

Bijou Cinema

Station Road,
Bexhill 0n Sea, TN39 3JR


Owner:  C.S. James.

Architect:  Joseph B. Wall of Bexhill.

Seating capacity:  490.

Date opened: Saturday 30th July 1910.

Sound debut:  Monday 16th September 1929. ‘The Broadway Melody ‘, starring Anita Page and Bessie Love.

Date closed:  October 1954.

Building demolished:  December 1993.




THE Bijou cinema Bexhill situated opposite the Town Hall and was designed by Bexhill architect Joseph B. Wall for C.S. James, the proprietor. The hall was rented to Kinsella and Collard. They were Edward Kinsella and Allan Hart, known as Harry Collard.

It opened on the Saturday 30th July 1910 and only had four years of operation before the Kinsella and Collard faced the bankruptcy court in December 1914.

The cinema closed in August 1914 and was re-opened under new ownership on Monday 18th April 1915 with a show called ‘The Smart Set Costume Concert Company’, direct from the ‘Clapham Rink Cinema, London’. There were two changes of programme weekly, Monday and Thursday. Performances were 6.15 and 8.15.

It didn’t last long as the Bijou and on Boxing night 1915 it opened as ‘The New Palace Theatre’, which was cine/variety. The first attraction was the film ‘Younita’, or ‘From Gutter to Footlights’ (in three parts). There was also a Chaplin film and a selected variety programme. The theatre was managed by Reid and Linen. They were working the theatre in conjunction with Reid’s Palaces.


Another name change and a new lessee took control in 1917 when the theatre became ‘The St George’s Cinema Theatre’. This was opened at 2.30 on Monday 31st December 1917 by the mayor Joseph B. Wall, who had designed the theatre as the Bijou. Again, films were screened for three days. The opening film was ‘The Welsh Singer’. Thursday the film was ‘The Cinderella Girl’ starring Ella Hall. There was a daily matinee at 2.45. it was continuous from 6pm to 11pm.

The hall was now run by J. F. Ash. The interior had been transformed. The walls were in pink. There was a splendidly executed cut out frieze of St George’s roses extending round the hall. There was a deep dado of oak panelling.

The old stage had been removed, which made the building somewhat larger and a small platform had been erected before the screen for the use of speakers, soloists and others.

There was an orchestra well immediately in front of the platform.

Seating consisted of polished wood chairs in the stalls, upholstered in saxe blue. In the balcony there were tip up seats in silver grey corduroy with inlaid woodwork. The building was heavily carpeted and the flooring had been re-done with wood blocks.

Up in the operating box were Gaumont projectors, the operator was Mr F. Silsby. The images were projected on a Surbrite screen. The orchestra was under the direction of Madame Bertha Spinak.

All the attendants were attired in saxe blue with white lace aprons.

The opening started with an overture by the orchestra. This was followed by Miss Nelli Corti singing the national anthem. The mayor went on to perform the opening ceremony. There was a slight hold up due to a breakdown of the lighting installation. Miss Corti recited a couple of poems until the problem was solved.

The entire proceedings of the first evening performance and the new year’s day matinee were given to the Bexhill trust.

In June 1929 it was closed for alterations. A company from Hastings called Berre and Browne carried out the alterations. It was reported that the walls now present the aspect of an Italian scene with the Mediterranean in the background and it extended to the screen. New seating was installed in the balcony in addition to new flooring. There was a new broad staircase installed. The work was carried out in just eight days.

Click on the above frame to view a clip of ‘Broadway Melody 1929’

The St George’s became the first cinema in Bexhill to install sound equipment. It was a system called Naturetone. The first sound film was ‘The Broadway Melody’ screened on Monday 16th September 1929. The first sound film should have been ‘The Doctor’s Secret’ but had to be changed at the last minute. ‘The Broadway Melody ‘was screened for a second week. By this time ownership had changed and it was run by Harry Bolton.

In 1936 the cinema had yet another name change when it became ‘The Carlton’, which opened under that name on 6th April 1936. The sound system was also changed and Western Electric was employed. By August that year Harry Bolton disposed of the cinema and it was taken over by J.W. Raphael.

The new look included a modernistic front and a display of neon lighting. Accommodation was increased and heating and ventilation was all new.

In the 1940s it was taken over by Mark’s Circuit Cinemas of Manchester. Manager in 1946 was Wyndham Edgar Whalley.

In 1949 it became the Savoy, the last name the cinema would have. It closed in October 1954 and the contents were auctioned by Harris and Gillow of London. There were 367 tip up seats in old gold figured plush, screen curtains in old gold silk, a ticket machine, two Kalee 12 projectors and a Kalee slide lantern attachment, lighting, carpets, 26 secondary lighting batteries and miscellaneous effects.


David A Ellis ©