Braintree, CM7 3HA
Date opened: April 1935.
Date closed: Autumn 1993.
Owners: Shipman & King.
Architects: Leslie Kemp & Tasker.
First film shown: “Things Are Looking Up”, starring Max Miller and Cicely Courtneige.
Christie organ installed ~ 3 Manuals/6 Ranks.
Seating Capacity: 1005.
Closed as a cinema: Late 1993.
Present use: JD Wetherspoons.. Picture Palace pub & restaurant.
The Shipman & King circuit secured this restricted corner site on Fairfield Road/Victoria Street, Braintree, Essex, which had previously been the home of Braintree’s first purpose built silent cinema called the Picture Palace Cinema that opened during 1912.
The progressive independent exhibitors were determined that their new cinema/ theatre would be one that would impress the more discerning patron. At the time the planning was submitted, the population of Braintree was little more than 9000, so a cinema of modest capacity was anticipated.
The architects, Kemp & Tasker, designed a cinema with an imposing brick faced curved facade that followed the line of the corner.
There were three sets of double doors to the entrance lobby. Attention was given to providing a working stage, dressing rooms, and a cafe.
The auditorium had seating at balcony and stalls to accommodate 1005 customers . The name they chose was “Embassy”, and it was the first time the company had used this name which was destined to be placed on many more Shipman & King cinemas.
The opening took place during April 1935 with the showing of the Embassy’s first feature ~ “Things Are Looking Up”, starring Max Miller and Cicely Courtneige. The 3 Manual/ 6 Ranks Christie organ, which had a wide based console provided a musical interlude.
The auditorium was luxurious, with a proscenium edged in ribbed plaster work. The splay walls either side of the stage had a pronounced vertical wide ribbed design with large bordered panels containing modernistic plaster art work.
It was re-branded as Studio One in 1967 when the Star Cinemas circuit took over. This company introduced bingo into the building. It continued as a cine/bingo site until March 1988. A year later the name Embassy was placed back onto the building as an ambitious independent exhibitor refurbished the cinema, re-opening it during 1989. Regrettably this venture was short lived with closure following in April of 1991. Another attempt was made to re-open the building as a cinema in the January of 1992. The new operator decided to use just the balcony area of 333 seats and re-naming it the the Embassy Arena Cinema. This lasted less than two years with the building closing as a cinema for the final time in late 1993. Plans were submitted to convert the building into a nightclub. These were rejected. Although the cinema building was not listed, it was considered to be the best surviving example of a Shipman and King cinema in the country.
The JD Wetherspoon pub & restaurant group bought the premises. They sympathetically converted it for their business requirements, broadly acknowledging the rich cinema history of the building as the Embassy cinema, retaining many of the original 1935 features. Framed photographs of the cinema in it’s heyday now hang on the restaurant walls. The building was opened on 26th July 1998 as the Picture Palace.