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The BBC's Madeline Holt reports
"Many of Britain's historic cinemas have only survived the threat of TV and the multiplexes by becoming Bingo halls
 real 28k

Tuesday, 7 December, 1999, 14:34 GMT
Plan to protect picture palaces
The listed Tooting Granada building in south London hopes to be upgraded


Some of Britain's most historic cinemas could be given listed building status under proposals put forward by English Heritage and backed by Oscar-winning film producer David Puttnam

The society wants to preserve the facades and interiors of more than 30 cinemas which may not have been included on earlier lists for preservation.

English Heritage also asked that a further eight picture houses, already listed, be upgraded and that new legislation be introduced to help keep working, historic cinemas in use.


The architects and designers in the first half of the century built cinemas which were pure flights of fantasy. They were places to escape from a real and fairly drab world
Lord Puttnam
Lord Puttnam described the architectural design of some early cinemas as "pure flights of fantasy" and "palaces" of escapism.

He said:"Too many wonderful cinemas have been demolished or altered out of all recognition. We now have to make sure that those few amazing cinemas that do survive continue to exist for another 50 years."

The final decision over listing lies with Culture Secretary Chris Smith and will be announced after the period of consultation ends on 1 March.

Many historic cinemas have been closed or destroyed to build offices or leisure facilities.

Those still surviving and on the English Heritage list cover the length and breadth of the country. They boast a number of intriguing building styles and reflect the development of the film industry.

The Gate cinema in Notting Hill, west London, for example, has Edwardian plasterwork from the very early days of the silver screen.

While the auditorium of the ABC Halifax, West Yorkshire, dates from the 1930s and is said to be one of the best, remaining examples of its kind.

The cinema in Southgate, north London, which sparked Lord Putnam's own love of the movies as a child was, he said, a beautiful example of an art deco interior which had been demolished in 1982.

Public support

But he said the time had come to stop the further destruction of similarly worthy movie houses, despite the current trend for multi-screen cinemas.

"The audience is continually expanding - more people go to the movies now than go to football matches.

Lord Puttnam was inspired as a child by an art deco cinema
"Many people are beginning to realise that their love of films is only enhanced by seeing them in buildings which add to the experience."

Nearly 300 movie screens were opened in the UK last year in a wave of new multiplex cinemas launches.

However, English Heritage chairman Jocelyn Stevens is confident that the public will support the plans to save the traditional screens.

"People love their local cinemas. We are frequently asked to save them.

"This consultation will give everyone a chance to let us know which cinemas they love most and want to save."

Members of the public are being urged to contact English Heritage with their thoughts on the proposals and make suggestions for cinemas that may have been missed from the list.

Cinemas recommended for listing

The Dominion - Acton, west London.
Odeon - Dudley, West Midlands.
Empress Electric Theatre ( now a warehouse) - Miles Platting, Manchester
Gaumont Palace (now a Mecca bingo hall) - Exeter, Devon
Forum (now Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall) - Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester
Electric Palace - Harwich, Essex
Gaumont (now the Odeon) - Holloway, north London
Regent (now a theatre) - Ipswich, Suffolk
Regent - Lyme Regis, Dorset
Cinema de Luxe/Plaza (now a New Life Christian Fellowship centre) - Margate, Kent
News Theatre (now the Tyneside cinema) - Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear
Plaza (now a bingo hall) - Northwich, Cheshire
Paramount (now the Odeon) - Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear
Picturedome (now the Phoenix) - East Finchley, north London
Queens (now a bingo hall) -Ellesmere Port, Cheshire
Regal (now ABC cinema) - Halifax, West Yorkshire
Regal Twins (now the Dancehouse Theatre) - Manchester
Rink ( now a Mecca bingo hall) - Smethwick, Sandwell, West Midlands
Ritz (now a Mecca bingo hall) -Grays, Essex
Ritz (now a bingo hall) - Ilkeston, Derbyshire
Gaumont (now a Mecca bingo hall) - St Helier, Surrey
Savoy ( now a Mecca bingo hall) - Edgware, west London
Grand ( now a Gala bingo hall) - Southport, Lancashire
Palace (now the Uropa nightclub) - Portsmouth, Hampshire
Grand -Bournemouth, Dorset
The Picture House - Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Clifton - Great Barr, Birmingham
Picture House - Halifax, West Yorkshire
Capitol - Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Odeon (now a Mecca Bingo hall) - Wolverhampton, West Midlands


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