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