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