Cinemas in the early years

For a town that has no purpose built cinemas it is interesting to chart the history of cinemas from 1910. There were never more than three cinemas at any time in the last 100 years and all have disappeared except one – hiding in the guise of a goods store of a High Street shop.

Bijou Cinema, High Street, Shoreham 1911-1931

The Bijou Electric Empire was opened in June 1911. It was built as a garage behind the old shipyard. It was a wooden building with a corrugated -iron roof and an earth floor.

By 1925 it was operated by Sussex Picturdrome who also operated the Duke of York’s Cinema in Brighton and the Bijou Electric Empire was re-named Duke of York’s Cinema. The Bijou entrance had a painting on the ceiling, it depicted some Cowboys chasing after some Red Indians. There was a piano by the screen, and the pianist accompanied all of the films, the floor at the front was covered in peanut shells and orange peel. There was also a large spitoon. The full name of the Cinema was Bijou Electric Empire.

It was closed on 5th August 1931 when it was completely destroyed by fire.

The Bijou cinema on the left with a sign ‘pictures’ fixed on it and bill stickers pasting the posters . It was also used by the film company on the beach for previews of their films and was also where Ricardo’s ‘Two Stroke Engine Co’ manufactured their early cars.

High Street looking West. Bijou Cinema on extreme left with “Pictures” sign
The same view in 2019

The Star – 7 Church Street Shoreham 1910-1927

1910-1914 Winton’s Hall
1914-1915 Star Theatre
1915-1922 Star Electric Picture Palace
1922-1924 Star Cinema
1924-1927 Court Kinema

This was built in 1800 as a chapel on Star Lane opposite the Star public house. In 1908 it was converted into a lecture & concert hall by William Edward Winton and operated as Winton’s Hall. It was given a Cinematograph Licence on 28th February 1910. On 12th October 1914 it was re-named Star Theatre and in 1915 became the Star Electric Picture Palace. By 1922 it had been re-named Star Cinema, and in 1924 it was re-named Court Kinema.

It was closed in 1927 and went into other uses. The gothic facade, hiding a utilitarian roof behind, was reduced in size to the ground floor level and access doors added for its use as a goods entrance to the stores in the High Street.

The Star Cinema, Church Street ©Winton Collection
The Star in 2020 – the goods entrance to the rear of the Co-operative shop

Coliseum, Brighton Road Shoreham 1920-1941

The Coliseum matinee 1st April 1924: “Main Street” ©SAS Marlipins Photo Collection

The Coliseum Theatre was built during World War I as a garrison theatre. It had a flytower for scenery. In 1920 it began use as a cinema. The projection booth was located at the back of the 30ft deep stage to allow for rear-projection. It had a 28ft wide proscenium.

The Coliseum 1924 ©

By 1933 it was still offering films and variety acts as part of the programming. The Coliseum Theatre was closed on 12th July 1941 due to war-time conditions.

By 1958 the building was converted into a machine shop for Deri Engineers a pump manufacturer who moved out in the early-1960’s.

In the 1990’s the building was demolished and the Adur Civic Centre was built on the site which in turn was demolished in 2015.

The Ritz Old Shoreham Road, Shoreham 1933-1970

Originally opened in 1933 as The Norfolk Cinema, designed by Arthur Singleton. The initial proprietor is Frederick J Freeman who also operated the Coliseum. On 2nd November 1947 it was re-named Ritz Cinema.

On 4th October 1963 it became a part-time bingo club. It screened its final programme “Carry on Cabbie” & “The Partner” on 25th January 1964 and became a full time bingo club. Films returned on 8th March 1964, with bingo on a Friday. The Ritz Cinema closed on 8th May 1964 with Peter Sellers in “The Pink Panther”. Bingo returned and ran for several more years. It sat empty for many years and the Cinema was demolished in the 1970’s. Ballamy’s Garage occupied the site for a few years and latterly this was removed and flats built.

1937 ©
In its heyday in 1940’s and later in June 1979 ©Lofty
The same view in 2009

Pavilion, North Street, Portslade 1911-1958

Opened as the Prince’s Imperial Picture Palace and Theatre. Radically redesigned in 1932 with demolition of the old building and a rebuild to include the adjacent building – fashioned in a modern minimalist style, to be renamed the Pavilion Cinema. By Feb 1958 it had closed although was recorded in a feature film (The Battle of the V1) being made at nearby Shoreham and Brighton. Closed shortly afterwards. The building still exists as light industrial premises.

Prince’s Imperial Picture Palace, North Street Portslade. ©JohnJohn
The Pavilion, showing the re-designed frontage, and as featured in 1958 in the film The Battle of the V1 – playing the role of a Polish theatre. The Pavilion was closed for good afterwards.
A long time after closure, canopy removed, vehicle door opened up.
The same view in 2018

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