Save Our Cinema

Remember THIS? This photo was taken in about 2003, when UGC owned the cinema licence, the exterior had been newly painted and the management were still displaying the titles of the movies above the doors.

Unfortunately the Cineworld cinema is once again under threat of demolition from the planning application submitted on 5th November 2010 by King Street Developments Limited (KSD) - the partnership between Grainger and Helical Bar, and we need YOUR help to save it.

You would not guess it from its present shabby state, but our King Street cinema is a highly profitable business, partly owned by private equity fund Blackstone and fund managers Artemis Income (Nov 2010). Cineworld are doing so well from the 78 cinemas (801 screens) they own in the UK that they aim to pay out to shareholders as dividends 60% of their underlying net income, as well as equip all their cinemas for digital projection within 3 years AND continue an active programme of cinema acquisitions, such as the O2 cinema in Greenwich (2009 Annual Accounts). So why is the King Street cinema so unloved? Because the freehold of the building is owned by St James Investments, the land bank of Tesco, who have been stalking this site for years.

The cinema is a historic gem:

It was designed in 1936, the heyday of cinemas, by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) house architect William R. Glen and it was called the "Regal" Cinema. It replaced two earlier cinemas on the site (Blue Hall 1 and 2-Annexe - now the car park).

It was a handsome theatre inside. It was built as a single auditorium with seating for 1,283 in the stalls and 974 in the balcony. It was equipped with a Compton 2Manual/5Rank theatre organ, which I think is still in the Museum of Mechanical Music in Rugby. There was a stage and four large dressing rooms. The décor was simple, the main feature being a large galleon on the splay wall either side of the screen and concealed trough lighting. There are other "Art Deco" features in the entrance lobby and elsewhere, some of which are now hidden. The Regal Cinema opened on 14th September 1936 with Clark Gable in "Wife vs Secretary" and Irene Dunne in "Magnificent Obsession" plus a stage show.

The Regal was renamed ABC in 1964 and closed to remodel as a multiplex (3 screens) in 1975. A fourth screen was eventually added, bringing total seating capacity up to about 2740.

The cinema has changed hands many times recently (Cannon, MGM, Virgin and then UGC) and it is now known as the Cineworld. It usually screens about three screenings of each film per day starting from around mid-day.

This proposal infringes the original development brief which specified that the developer should make every effort to retain the existing cinema within the new development.

On wider grounds the proposed development breaches the Unitary Development Plan because the buildings are far too tall (14 storeys) and too dense, offering only luxury appartments for sale. It offers no social housing, which is really needed. Apart from the developers, the only beneficiaries are council staff relocated into some new offices provided "free of charge" in one of the blocks. The raised portion of Nigel Playfair Avenue and the footbridge over the Great West Road are mistakes: they will attract muggers and vandals, who will love the dark hiding places underneath them. The ramp down from the bridge into Furnivall Gardens will make the north west corner unusable and will only benefit the owners of the luxury flats."

Save Our Cinema