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Letter: The Astoria will not be lost to dereliction
From the archive, first published Tuesday 11th Apr 2006.
In response to several recent letters concerning the Astoria Cinema on the Old Steine, we do indeed own the building and, despite being hard at work putting a new show together for the Brighton Festival, behind the scenes we are still working on our Astoria plans.
The scaffolding at the front was put there both to protect the building frontage (which is listed, but was deteriorating) and the public, from falling masonry.
No doubt the unsightliness of this is bringing the building to everyone’s attention but, prior to our ownership, it suffered many years of unnoticed neglect.
Before anything else can be done with the Astoria, it needs a new roof and the fascia needs to be renovated and restored.
This vastly increases the expense of restoration and, since there are no grants or lottery funds available to us, we are actively seeking private partners and sponsorship.
In the meantime, while the scaffolding may be an eyesore, behind it lies the potential of a wonderful performance/cinema space.
So, we apologise for the inconvenience, but we are working with architects on new internal designs, making feasibility studies and seeking partners and sponsors to resurrect the Astoria.
Many wonderful theatres and cinemas have been lost to Brighton and to redevelopment, most recently the Essoldo on North Street.
We do not intend to let the Astoria fall into the dereliction/redevelopment trap and will be revealing our plans for the Astoria in the near future.
-Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, Yes/No Productions, Ship Street, Brighton
This letter was taken from the Brighton Argus. Yes/No Productions are the management organisation for the group known as ‘Stomp’. Should there be any further developments, I’ll post it here.
Ian, as I said in another posting I’ve no love loss for the Futurist. However, your local Council members, as with members of so many other Councils, seem to live on a different planet from ourselves. Councils pleading poverty seem always to find sufficient funds to pay the inflated fees charged by ‘Consultants’. The Futurist will, in all probability be demolished, but that which is put in its place is the prime concern. Mentioned in the Scarborough Evening News is a ‘multi-screen cinema’. Multiplexes all over the UK are having a rough time. Some have reduced operative screens by 50%, in some cases a higher percentage and, as you’re probably
aware, some have closed completely. A ‘Lord of the Rings’, a ‘Star Wars’ or a ‘Spiderman’ is available only occasionally to boost the coffers, from which staff, business rates etc., in the not so good times have to be paid. The replacement for the Futurist must be a multi-purpose hall of between 750/1000 seats with attention given to character, as opposed to the construction of a box and, most importantly, with a viable business plan – such as provision of attached retail units etc. It must be constructed with state-of-the-art facilities for live theatre in all its forms, cinema and conferences. Anything other than a full-time occupation of any new building won’t pay the bills – nor be of any benefit to Scarborough. As a footnote, it’s interesting to read that business in independent houses of one or two screens is increasing.
Woody, many people here in Brighton have tried to find out what’s happening – nobody yet has come up with any information. Apparently, the Theatre Trust has been contacted, but without result. I’ll post any news I get.
The frontage of the Rubery Cinema, resembled the Northfield Cinema in style. A small square red brick building at the foot of the Lickey Hills, it had a one pillared, two arched entrance. It had no canopy, simply its neon-lit name Rubery Cinema – ‘Rubery’ on one side ‘Cinema’ on the other. Its interior was plain without any particular adornments, it’s primary colours being in various shades of brown with matching tabs. In spite of the cinemas ‘lowliness’ I remember it as being a very comfortable local cinema.
The Bristol Cinema site is now occupied by a Macdonalds.
Is this going to cause arguments? I hope not. The shortly to be re-opened, refurbished, Electric Cinema in Station Street, Birmingham opened in December 1909 and has shown films under a variety of names since.
Ken, many thanks for your information re: the King’s Norton.
This is a very beautiful venue but, as can be seen from Ian Grundy’s photograph, the stage area is small. Add to this the fact that Harrogate already has a large conference centre for concerts etc, and the Harrogate Theatre for touring and local shows, there would seem to be a problem regarding the use of the theatre (I prefer to call it a ‘theatre’). However, the old Birmingham Repertory Theatre comes to mind. This building is also listed but is occupied year round by performances from amateur and semi-professional companies mounting both large and small productions and who welcome a regular centrally located space for their performances and who pay a market rent for their useage of the theatre. The old Rep is also used for small concerts. Put to a similar usage – though I prefer to conveniently forget how long ago it was – was the old Scala Theatre in London.
AmDram companies from far outside the Harrogate area would, I’m certain, welcome the opportunity of performing at the Royal – even with its small stage area. The only ‘very minor’ matter remaining is getting hold of Â£11m. Fight like hell for it.
Woody, my comment was for Michael who seems to want to convert everything into a concert hall, or an opera house – hence my querying 350 seats. The Gate stems way back to my depraved youth and much time was spent there. I was delighted to hear that it has now been made a listed building.
Sorry to bug you again Paul. Have a photo to include, but I see the facility to do so isn’t available on the site temporarily.
Agreed Paul. I’ll have a dig around.
Glad to say the Dome’s up and running again.
New member. Love the site. Very easy to navigate. Spend far too much time looking through it instead of working, eating, going to bed etc. Am I sad?
Central London (UK) cinemas (Odeon Leicester Square, Odeon West End, Empire etc., have been charging Â£10.50 ($16US) for some time past!!
Paul, I’ve been trying to gather information on Birmingham’s Cinemas and Theatres for some time past. It’s a tough job. There’s virtually no net information, yet once Birmingham was possessed of some 70 city centre and surburban cinemas. The Birmingham Evening Mail issued a soft cover booklet some years ago called ‘Entertainment in Birmingham’ which contained a small amount of cinema and theatre history. As an alternative you could try to contact Professor Carl Chinn who writes a column recalling ‘old’ Birmingham in the Evening Mail each week. Through this site, I’ve requested information and possibly a photograph of the King’s Norton
cinema in Birmingham – a haunt in earlier days. Anything I can do to help, drop me a message.
The LSO with 350 seats?
Neo, I played summer season at the Futurist ten years or so back and as with the rest of the cast, could find nothing vaguely attractive about it. The building nowadays is impractical. I’m very suprised it hasn’t been demolished or multiplexed before now.
The facade as pictured and ‘dressing rooms’ area at the rear of the cinema remain standing and can be clearly seen from the street. It would be interesting to discover if any other part of the cinema has been left intact.
Colin, just noticed your posting. Seems every interested movie theater person wants to know what’s happening at the Astoria. Is it back up for sale?