London, E6 1PW
Date opened: Monday 18th July 1938.
Date Closed: Saturday 31st October 1981.
Architects: Andrew Mather, assisted Keith P. Roberts.
First film shown: “Thank Evans” starring Max Miller.
Final film shown: “The Sleeping Beauty” ~ Walt Disney animated feature.
Seating capacity: 2,212.
Re-opened as an Asian cinema, late 1995. Known as Boleyn cinema. Now closed.
The site of the old Boleyn cinema had been earmarked for a new large Odeon in the north east London district of East Ham on the Barking Road. The amount of competition from other new and large nearby cinemas such as the massive Granada did not deter Oscar Deutsch from building another Odeon. Initially plans were prepared by cinema architect Cecil Aubrey Masey during 1936. However, it was to be architects Andrew Mather, assisted by the talented Keith P Roberts plans that were the choice of the company for this important venue.
Soon the dated structure of the 1910 Boleyn Electric Theatre was demolished and work commenced on building a sleek cinema in it’s place. With Keith P Roberts strong influence there was a futuristic approach in design that would not have been out of place two decades in advance.
The facade was in total contrast to what had been there before, a tall, square imposing front, flanked either side by shops. Over a deep protruding canopy were large and tall recessed windows that allowed an abundance of light into the main entrance lounge. Three large Odeon signs mounted on dark tiles were set at angles on either side of this window, with a further sign set over the top of the window frame. Two large flag poles were attached to the side walls of this ultra modern frontage.
Inside, customers were met with a very high main entrance hall which was unusual for an Odeon design, with coves set high that featured a large rectangular feature of lay-lighting. The open aspect of this area gave a fresh approach to the normal layout of cinema entrance halls of the period. Walls decoration was plain apart from evanesce designs of woodland/animal designs.
Attractive art deco balustrades fixed on the side staircases which led to a wide bridge and then onto the balcony foyer, while below, the stalls foyer was reached through two sets of double doors that faced the main entrance doors.
The auditorium was wide with seating in the stalls that accommodated 1418 customers, while the balcony held 794, making the original total capacity of 2212. The proscenium was of a generous width. Coves had concealed lighting with three large circular unlit features, the inner cove nearest the stage provided illumination to the front stalls area. Decorative wave patterns were painted on both the splay walls above the extended ultra modern designed ventilation grills, said to resemble a car radiator?
The cinema opened on Monday 18th July 1938 showing “Thanks Evans” starring Max Miller as the opening film. Despite being in fierce competition with several nearby large cinemas, the Odeon maintained good business.
During the 1960s it was given a refurbishment that saw many of it’s original features removed. The owners, Rank Theatres, decided to close the single screen building on 31st October 1981. The final film shown was Walt Disney’s animated classic, “Sleeping Beauty”.
A marvelous account of working at the Odeon East Ham as a projectionist in the 1950s is provided by James Jee. To read his fascinating story click on the frame below.
It remained closed until 1995 when an independent Asian operator acquired the building. The stalls area was divided to form two cinemas. The balcony remained as the third large screen. The cinema was then known as the Boleyn, showing mainly Bollywood movies.
Later alterations took place in 2014, when the original stalls was converted into a banquet hall and the balcony split to form two cinemas which opened during 2015.
The operation closed on 16th March 2020 due to the Covid 19 restrictions. Planning permission has since been obtained to demolish the building and build retail units and flats on the site.