State Cinema

George Street,
Grays, RM17

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State Cinema (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Frederick's Electric Theatres, Mecca Leisure Ltd., Robins Cinemas

Architects: Frederick (Francis) Graham Moon Chancellor

Firms: Frank Matcham & Company

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: State Theatre

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News About This Theater


The State Theatre, Grays, Essex opened on 5th September 1938 with Dorothy Lamour and Jon Hall in “The Hurricane”. It was built and operated by the Frederick’s Electric Theatres circuit. The magnificent State Cinema remained a large and unaltered building with seating for 2,200 with 1,400 seats in the stalls and 800 seats in the circle. It is equipped with a Compton 3Manual/6Ranks organ with Melotone attached. The organ console has a ‘Rainbow’ illuminated surround and is on a lift, with the organ chamber located under the stage. The State Cinema has a fully equipped stage and there are 3 dressing rooms. It boasted a 50-seat restaurant in the circle foyer level. It was awarded a Grade II Listed building status by English Heritage in 1985. In 1988 the State Cinema was a location shoot for a sequence in the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” starring Bob Hoskins. At that time the Compton organ was still played every evening performance (except Sunday) and a ‘phantom’ piano had been added. The State Cinema was closed November 30, 1989 with Dennis Quaid in “Great Balls of Fire”.

In 1993 the foyer was used for a while as a nightclub named Charleston’s, and the auditorium saw use again on two occasions for concerts by David Essex and Suzi Quatro. The 1998 music video of “Deeper Underground” by Jamiroquai for “Gozilla:The Album” was filmed in the State Cinema.

In 2001 Morrisons Supermarket chain purchased the entire building and adjacent car park to use the car park as an extension to their own adjacent car park. In 2006 a property company purchased the building for £550,000. It has been unused for over 30 years, and there have been several break-in’s. The Compton organ, projectors and all equipment remained in the building, but during one of the break-in’s, around 2011, organ pipes from the organ chamber under the stage were stolen by metal thieves.

In the early-2000’s the building was upgraded to Grade II* Listed and is one of the most endangered buildings on the English Heritage ‘Buildings at Risk’ list.

In October 2015 it was announced the State Cinema had been purchased by the J.D. Weatherspoon chain of pubs and details of their plans were published in December 2017. Delays over how it would be transformed into a pub while retaining its listed qualities were wrangled over for several years between J.D. Wetherspoon, English Heritage, Cinema Theatre Association and Thurrock Council. The £5 million plans for the conversion were finally approved in July 2021. The pub would have 475 seats, and a further 50 seats on a roof garden. The circle foyer would be converted into toilets. The building would receive a new roof. The Compton organ would be renovated and repaired to playable condition, with the console in the ‘raised’ position in front of the stage. The projection box would be preserved. A roll-down screen was planned to be installed and all damaged plasterworks would be repaired using plaster. Sadly, none of these plans happened.

In December 2022 J.D. Wetherspoon announced that they had abandoned plans to convert the State Cinema into one of their pubs and the building would be put up ‘For Sale’ by auction. A few days before the auction was to take place it was announced that the cinema had been purchased by an unnamed buyer. Work had already been prepared on the restoration and the auditorium was filled with scaffolding. The scaffolding had enabled access to the ornate ceiling in the auditorium to be removed due to asbestos being found. It was reported there is a large hole in the auditorium roof measuring several feet which is allowing rainwater into the building as well as pigeons. The Cinema Theatre Association sent an appeal to the local Thurrock Council (who are bankrupt) to ask them to serve a notice to Weatherspoon’s (when they were owners of the building) to repair the hole on this Grade II* building. There was news that an organ enthusiast had removed the Compton organ (its remaining pipes & console) from the building to be placed in safe storage.

The unknown owner was uncontactable, and during 2023 and into 2024, the building was broken into and was trashed. Numerous videos were filmed inside the building by Urban Explorers (who did not do any damage) and are viewable on YouTube. Despite notifying Thurrock Council and other interested bodies about the deterioration of the building and pleas to make it secure, by July 2024 it was easy for anyone to enter through broken doors and windows, and fixtures and fittings were disappearing or trashed. Children played in the building and fires were started with the fire brigade called to extinguish them and the police were called to investigate. It has been found that the new owner of the building is Naveed Ahmad of London Developments International, and fears are that despite its Grade II* Listed building status, the former State Cinema will never be revived.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

Infernalaffairs on January 8, 2008 at 2:25 pm

I have sent an e-mail to Thurrock Council asking for info and/or help with an idea I had.

There is a cinema museum currently based in London that has to move home and could well cease to be if it can not find suitable new premises. The State Cinema building would be an ideal location. I have e-mailed the museum to confirm that they are still looking for a new home but so far that is it. This would be an ideal opportunity for both parties ( OK, Grays isn’t London but it has a good rail link to and from London).

This would fit in nicely with the planned (if Thurrock Council keep their promise) Thurrock Film Network.

If anyone is interested in helping me with trying to get these and other local projects started, please e-mail me on .uk Thanks.

joey80 on January 10, 2008 at 10:51 am

Anyone interested in helping save this lovely old building please visit my website.

joey80 on January 18, 2008 at 5:51 am

There is now an online petition at

Please sign if you would like to see one of Englands last fully original picture palaces saved from being turned into a health club or some sort or residential property.

TLSLOEWS on April 12, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Pretty sad slide show posted by speed.

William L. Coale, Ph.D.
William L. Coale, Ph.D. on August 14, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Just in from Peter Hammond via Facebook:

Peter Hammond
is rather gutted at the destruction of another cinema organ in its original venue

Quentin Bellamy Which one is that?

Peter Hammond State Grays

Simon Gledhill How has it been destroyed?

Peter Hammond Metal thieves broke in in July and have stolen most of the pipework. They even bent some of the tubas in half and left them on the stage presumably waiting their return to collect them. They also took other metal items in the building I believe. Console and other parts still in situ and OK I believe. We have been lobbying the local authority for ages to make sure the place was secure, especially after the caretaker died earlier this year. A few days ago new security measures were put into place – somewhat late!!! Simon please can the COS join forces with us to demand some action regarding the State?

Simon Gledhill Peter, let’s discuss privately. I will e-mail you.

Peter Hammond OK

Gary Davies This is a disgrace.

Stephen Dutfield It’s terrible news. Do we know what the state of play is with insurance? It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that the stolen pipework could be replaced from Compton material available from other sources, although of course it would never be the State organ as it was. I just hope nobody has the idea to dump what’s left of it because the pipes are missing.

Quentin Bellamy What a calamity!

70mmbobbyj on September 12, 2015 at 5:49 am

It appears that the State has now been purchased by JD Weatherspoons. This has been reported on the “save the state” Facebook page.

HowardBHaas on September 11, 2019 at 6:17 am

extensive article on the plans

daniels3d on October 22, 2022 at 8:21 am

Wetherspoons has made a u-turn on making it into a pub. That means it will not be a Wetherspoons any more.

Biffaskin on March 12, 2024 at 1:25 pm

After being left in a perilous state (no pun intended) by Wetherspoons, and after being sold on by them, the lack of a secure dry building has finally meant that Thurrock Council have issued an enforcement order on the new owner to secure the building. It has been known for stalls exit doors to have been left wide open recently, with Urban Explorers not helping with a string of videos being posted online as well, proving as to how unsecured the building was. Fingers crossed, this lengthy saga will come to a good ending…..

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