Strand Arts Centre

152-154 Holywood Road,
Belfast, BT4 1NY

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Related Websites

Strand Cinema - Belfast (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Associated British Cinemas Ltd., Union Cinema Co. Ltd.

Architects: John McBride Neill

Functions: Community Arts Center, Movies (Classic)

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: Strand Cinema, Strand Variety Theatre

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 440289.067.3500

Nearby Theaters

Strand Arts Centre

The Strand Cinema was opened on 7th December 1935 with Shirley Temple in "Bright Eyes". It was built for and operated by the Union Cinemas chain.

One of the features of the decoration inside the auditorium was three rows of round port-holes on the splay walls each side of the proscenium. These were back-lit and gave the feel of being inside an ocean liner. The proscenium had a wide plain border surrounding all four sides and had rounded corners. Seating was provided for 1,170, with 900-seats in stalls and 270-seats in the circle. There was also a café located on the first floor.

In October 1937, Union Cinemas were taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) and they continued to operate it until it was closed on 12th November 1977. It was re-opened by a local independent operator on 19th November 1977. It was closed on 19th November 1983.

It operated as a concert and live performance venue named Strand Variety Theatre in 1984 with performances on its 14 feet deep stage. Artists such as The Drifters & comedians Little & Large appeared here. It closed in 1987. On 29th April 1988 it reopened for films again having been converted into a four-screen cinema with 642-seats (276, 196, 90 and 80). It is now independently operated and underwent a restoration in October 1999, bringing back many features that had been lost over the years. It currently operates as the Strand Arts Centre screening classic films (including 35mm prints) with 608-seats (250, 180, 98 & 80).

In October 2023 it was announced that the Strand Arts Centre would be closing in mid-February 2024 for a ££6.5 million renovation to be carried out. It is planned to reopen in mid-2025.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

JBelfast on October 5, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Favourite local cinema! Can anyone help me with this question. I seem to have an old memory of going to see Orville The Duck, and for some reason I believe it was at the Strand when it was open for live performance. This would date it between ‘83 and '84.. and I would only of been 1 or 2 years old!! Can anyone shed any light.. did this happen or am I imagine things!!

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 3, 2009 at 5:36 am

A photograph of the side-splay wall of the auditorium in 1955:
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Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 20, 2010 at 3:27 am

A vintage photograph of the auditorium & circle level in 1950:
View link

Ian on March 28, 2014 at 2:33 am

Photo’s from March 2014 of the Strand Arts Centre:–






Torchlight on August 27, 2018 at 2:07 am

The last day under ABC ownership was 12 November 1977. The Strand then closed for a week and reopened on 19 November; the lease had been acquired by a local independent operator. However, despite what has been described as “brave efforts” by the new owner, it finally closed for films on 19 November 1983. It was reopened by local businessman Ronnie Rutherford in 1984 as the Strand Variety Theatre; the many well-known acts who performed on its stage included The Drifters and Little and Large. It continued as a live performance venue until 1987 when it closed again. Ronnie Rutherford had always entertained the hope that the Strand would return to being a cinema and his dream became a reality when it reopened for films on 29 April 1988. It had been converted into a 4-screen complex; close on £500,000 had been spent on transforming the building. By 2013 the Strand found itself having to compete with a increasing number of new multiplexes so it took the decision to cease trading as a commercial cinema and reinvented itself as the Strand Arts Centre, a not-for-profit charitable venture, to ensure the short-term survival of the building. There are longer term plans (which include the retention of the four existing screens) to completely renovate the Strand.

Torchlight on August 8, 2020 at 6:06 am

The conversion of the Strand from a single screen to a 4-screen in 1988 reduced the number of seats to 642 (see Overview for details). The current total is 608: Screen 1 – 250, Screen 2 – 180, Screen 3 – 98 and Screen 4 – 80.

DavidZornig on December 7, 2020 at 8:10 am

The Strand’s 85th anniversary recognition with images.

Biffaskin on July 2, 2023 at 7:10 am

The same year that the plans were submitted by John McBride Neill (1935) coincides with another plan submitted by architect Thomas H. Guthrie, at the same location - Holywood Road and Pim’s Avenue, however, Guthrie’s plans weren’t built. Was the site originally an independent’s site sold to Union Cinemas? Or were the plans of Guthrie amended by Neill and built?

Torchlight on October 28, 2023 at 5:09 am

Belatedly responding to the comments of July 2, which I’ve only just seen - The idea of a cinema on this site was conceived by Strand Cinemas (Belfast) Ltd., a locally owned company. One of their directors, Harry Wilton, was already well-known in local cinema circles. The company purchased the site and plans drawn up by architect Thomas Guthrie were submitted to the City Surveyor on March 26, 1935. Around this time Union Cinemas took over the project. McBride Neil, who was already making a name for himself as a cinema designer, was appointed and his new plans were submitted and approved. Tt seems unlikely that McBride Neil would have borrowed from Guthrie’s ideas, but we shall probably never know as no trace of the latter’s plans have been seen. Harry Wilton was appointed as the new cinema’s first managing director.

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