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State Cinema (Official)
Architects: Frederick (Francis) Graham Moon Chancellor
Firms: Frank Matcham & Company
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: State Theatre
News About This Theater
- Feb 28, 2008 — State Cinema, Grays - New Preservation Website
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 remains 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. There was a 50-seat restaurant in the circle foyer level. 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). 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 remain 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.
The building is 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 will have 475 seats, and a further 50 seats on a roof garden. The circle foyer will be converted into toilets. The building will receive a new roof. The Compton organ will be renovated and repaired to playable condition, with the console in the ‘raised’ position in front of the stage. The projection box will be preserved. A roll-down screen will be installed and all damaged plasterwork will be repaired using plaster.
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 is filled with scaffolding. It has been 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 has sent an appeal to the local 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 is news that an organ enthusiast has removed the Compton organ (its pipes & console) from the building to be placed in safe storage.
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