Lancing, BN15 8AG
The Luxor Cinema Lancing in Sussex designed by W. Frazer Granger was built opposite the station. It opened on the 17th January 1940 with the famous crazy gang, starring in the feature ‘Frozen Limits’. The opening should have been earlier but was delayed due to shortages of material. There should have been a ballroom, but this never opened. Sir Sydney Samuelson CBE, who went on to become the first British Film Commissioner, tells me that the ship carrying material for it was sunk by a German U Boat. The ballroom area became a store room. The cinema had seating for 998, 800 of those in the stalls. The proscenium was thirty six feet wide and the stage was twenty feet deep.
Up in the projection room were two Ernemann 7 projectors, the last pair imported from Germany before the war. The Sound was Western Electric Mirrorphonic, which was only the seventh to be installed in the county at the time. It was also stated that the cinema was the only theatre in Sussex fitted with Western Electric deaf aid equipment. There were to be shops at the side of the building. These didn’t open at the beginning because of material shortages. Instead they were used to place posters. Ninety three year old Sir Sydney, who joined the cinema as a fourth projectionist or rewind boy at fourteen, has fond memories of the cinema, and tells me, when the doorman was called up for duty he took over the job of bill posting and putting letters on the canopy. On one occasion he ran out of the letter L, and made the letter up using cardboard and painting it red.
The cinema opened its doors for the first time at 2pm for a 3pm start. The telephone number was Lancing 3000.The opening was performed by a Mr E Pearce, a leading aircraft man with the words ‘I declare this theatre open.’ Prior to the war he had been the chief assistant to the architect of the cinema.There was great interest in the opening and police were present to regulate the traffic and control the queues. Opening prices of admission were, from 9d to 1/6. There was car park and cycling accommodation. The Worthing Herald dated December 24 1943 reported that around six hundred members of the Lancing Home Guard were invited with their families to a free screening of Oh Mr Porter. A collection raised over twenty pounds for the prisoners of war fund. The cinema was an independent hall built by F.T. Wilson and Son from Brighton and run by a Mr Basil Fortesque under Luxor (Lancing) Ltd. Fortesque had been in the cinema business for twenty three years and had been connected with several cinemas, including the Regent Dover. He also leased the Regal Lancing in 1939, which had been the Odeon. It had 654 seats and had a proscenium width of twenty feet and the stage was twelve feet deep. It also had two dressing rooms and BTH projection equipment.
Two months after the Luxor opened, the Regal closed and was re-opened again on the 16th October 1941, still retaining the name Regal. To celebrate the re-opening, every tenth person was admitted free. Odeon operated it again from 30th August 1942 and they still kept the Regal name. In March 1945 it reverted back to the name Odeon on the canopy. The Luxor was built for around £25,000. It was said there were four dressing rooms for occasional stage shows. However, Sir Sydney says he doesn’t remember there being any dressing rooms. The chief operator was a Mr Frank Chipperfield. At the opening Mr Fortesque and the manager Mr W.J Kirk were in the foyer greeting guests. Twenty months after it had opened, a short article stated that Mr Fortesque managed the cinema himself and was always available to meet any member of the public. He would welcome suggestions and criticism. It may have been that Mr Kirk had left by then. He spent five and a half years in the RAF.After Mr Kirk, a Mr Alfred G. Leavers DCM managed the theatre until April 1946, when Mr Kirk returned.
The foyer was covered in linoleum of a blue marble design with a two tone border effect and interior decorations were marblecote sprayed red and gold over cream. Carpets throughout had a flame background with an ultra modern pattern in green, black and gold. The front stage curtains were in various shades of gold velour, with a shaped appliqued pelmet. Other curtains were a pair of draped drawn curtains in pale gold, and the rear stage pair silver festooned with borders and side legs. It was stated that green and silver were the notes of other draperies, and covering a horizontal series of windows at the side of the auditorium was a curtain of attractive shape with appliqued design. The front and rear curtains of the stage were controlled from the operating box and the stage.
The cinema was taken over by the H. Bentley circuit in 1946 and by Shipman and King in 1952. Live shows came to an end by 1957, but films continued to be screened until the 26th June 1965. The last film projected was ‘Splendour in the Grass’. After movies it was bingo. Eyes down continued until the early 1980s. The auditorium part of the building was demolished and flats were built. The frontage was retained.
David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk
Hassocks, BN6 8QA
Date opened: Monday 28th November 1938
Date Closed: Not Known
First film shown: ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’
Architect: E.B Parkinson
First General Manager: Kenneth Johnson
Seating Capacity: 811
The studio cinema Keymer Road Hassocks was opened on Monday 28th November 1938 by Colonel Sir William R. Campion KCMG DSO. The cinema was built on the site of a private house, which was once owned by a branch of Earl Haig’s family. The cinema was built in fifteen weeks by the builders T.J. Braybon and Son Ltd from Brighton. The architect was E.B Parkinson of Huntingdon. Sir William Campion was introduced by Mr W. Fletcher, a director of the Fletcher-Barnett Syndicate Ltd, the owners. A press report said: Sir William said the cinema was going to be a great asset to the neighbourhood. Previously, people in certain villages and towns had found it difficult to get to a place where there was a cinema, but Hassocks was very accessible.
Up in the operating box was the latest Western Electric Mirrorphonic sound system. Seating was for around 800 and the opening programme was, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Clock Cleavers (silly symphony), Gaumont British News, Edgar and Goliath and The March of Time. It was to be The Drum as the first feature, but for some reason it was changed. The first manager was a major Kenneth Johnson. Later, it was managed by a Mr Arthur Ridley.
The press stated, there was an interesting gathering in connection with the building of the cinema held at the Downs Hotel, Hassocks on the Sunday evening, when around 120 guests were entertained to dinner by the Fletcher-Barnett Syndicate Ltd. A toast to the house and Mr E.B Parkinson was proposed by Mr A.P. Belton of Braybon and Son. He thought that Mr Charles Barnett (co owner) had found an excellent site at Hassocks, and his architect had produced the very best cinema with which he had anything to do with. It was stated that the members of the Haywards Heath licensing authority had shown more courtesy and had been more helpful in their criticism than any other licensing authority he had met. Mr Belton presented a cheque to Mr Percy Morley, the foreman in appreciation of his excellent work.
There was a private showing of the programme after the guests had inspected the building. By the early fifties the cinema was run by Orion cinemas. In 1953 two employees of Belchers Radio service, Lewis, had narrow escapes from injury when they were fixing an aerial for projection television on the Roof. The building was eventually demolished. It is not clear when it opened and closed as the Orion. Sadly, a number of cinemas failed to record such details. If anyone knows when it became the Orion and the closing date and last film, please get in touch.
David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk
Faversham, ME13 7AG
Date opened: 9th March 1936
Open For Cinema Business
First film shown: ‘First A Girl’
Architect: Andrew Mather (1891 to 1938)
First General Manager: George C. Stanton
Seating Capacity: 729
Oscar Deutch’s Odeon Faversham, Kent, now the new Royal, designed by Andrew Mather (1891 to 1938), was the 117th cinema of the Odeon circuit. The doors of this Tudorbethan theatre opened on the 9th March 1936 and Adam Maitland MP, congratulated the management on the fine architectural charm of the new building. It’s elevation was in keeping with the fine old style of the surrounding features. The adjacent premises are dated 1570. Seating in the stadium style cinema was 729 – 441 of them in the raised area at the rear.
The first attraction was ‘First A Girl’, starring Jessie Matthews. The exterior is mock Tudor, which is also in the interior. The auditorium has timber framed panels. F. Stanley Bates, a director deputising for Deutch, emphasised the point that the policy of insisting that everything from floor to ceiling being British was being pursued in this case too. The technical equipment (BTH) was entirely British also. The first person to manage the cinema was George C. Stanton, and music was provided by the Faversham Borough Silver Band. From the 12th to 17th June 1939, the film ‘The Warning’ was screened. This was a film based on APR work. There was a display of ASP equipment and a map showing the organisation of the borough. Who would have known that world war was only a few months away.
In 1967 the cinema was taken over by the Classic chain and opened under that name on the 3rd December 1967. The 26th September 1969 brought another change, when Coral made use of the building for both films and bingo. At this point it was re-named the Royal cinema. Films along with bingo continued until the 1st May 1974. Films ceased with the screening of Man at the Top and a second feature with Bruce Lee called The Chinese Connection, but bingo continued as the Coral Bingo Club. Films were re-introduced from the 21st January 1979 and opened with Grease. Bingo was still retained and eyes down took place in the afternoons and some evenings. On the 8th June 1985 bingo was once again played full time. This was short lived, and two years later the building closed completely.
In August 1990 it went back on film when it was owned independently, but this was also short lived. It went on to film again, when the current owners Michael Harlow and Peter Baldock took control. They have run it since 11th February 1994, as the New Royal Cinema. On the 22nd March 1988 it was designated a Grade 2 listed building by English Heritage.
The cinema currently runs mainstream, and artier films for the Faversham Film Society on alternate Monday nights. The cinema, which now houses 440 seats has had very positive reviews. One said: A beautiful cinema in an old theatre. While they don’t show lots of movies, two showings a day, I think, it is £5 a ticket. Another says: An amazing independent cinema in Faversham. Has a rustic feel to it, and even has the old style tickets for certain films. One of the biggest screens in Kent.
David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk
Chesham, HP5 1LJ
Date opened: 11th January 1937
Date closed: 24th April 1982
First film shown: “Poor Little Rich Girl”
Final film shown: “Evil under the Sun”
Architect: David E Nye
Seating Capacity: 1300
The Embassy, Germain Street Chesham, run by Shipman and King opened for business on 11th January 1937 and it should have been opened by Lord Chesham, supported by WF Lowndes JP. Unfortunately both fell ill. At the last moment a Mr E. Culverhouse, Chairman of Chesham Council deputised. There was also an appearance by film star John Lodge. He asked to be excused for appearing in make-up, explaining that he had come straight from the set. A Mr N Guy Walker, the circuit supervisor made the announcement about the change and said that Lord Chesham sent his best wishes.
Following the opening performance many guests of Shipman and King dined in the restaurant. Seating was for 1300 and there was provision for an organ, which was never installed.
The opening attraction was ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’. The cinema was designed by David E Nye of Tufton Street, London, and building work was by Bovis Ltd. In 1981 it was reported that the cinema retained some of the best 1930s period fittings and the original carpet. It was in 1981 that the CTA paid it a visit.
A fortnight after opening, two cats were discovered inside a canopy through which ran electrical wiring. An opening was made by workmen to allow them to escape.
The cinema also housed a restaurant on the first floor and up in the projection room Western Electric Sound was employed. At the rear of the cinema there was a large car park for patrons. In 1976 the car park was used as a market on Wednesdays from 9am until 4.30. This was opened by actor William Roache on the 1st December.
1964 wasn’t a good year for the cinema. In June the cinema was a victim of arson when a fourteen year old set it on fire. Two thousand pounds worth of damage was done to the foyer area. Then in August they had a burglary. In the mid-1970s it was run by EMI. They ran the theatre until the 24th April 1982. The last film was “Evil under the Sun”. In June 1983 the bulldozers came calling and it was demolished and replaced by housing. Some of the interior features are held by the Museum of London.
David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk