Imperial Cinema

Darwall Street,
Walsall, WS1 1DA

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Associated British Cinemas Ltd.

Architects: Harry E. Farmer, J.H. Hickton

Firms: Hickton & Farmer

Styles: Neo-Georgian

Previous Names: Imperial Hall, Imperial Picture House

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Imperial Cinema

Originally built as the Agricultural Hall in 1868 to the plans of architect G.B. Nichols, it was given a new façade and opened as St. George’s Hall in 1887. It became the Imperial Hall in 1899 and was screening films in August 1908. The Imperial Picture House opened on 1st January 1910 after being granted a full Cinematograph Licence. On the 6th June 1914, the Imperial Picture House was closed to enable the façade of the building and the auditorium interior to be rebuilt in a Neo-Georgian style to the plans of architectural firm Hickton & Farmer. A balcony was added and the seating capacity increased to 1,600. There was also a tea-room for the convenience of its patrons. It re-opened on 12th October 1914 with “Trilby”.

In October 1930, the Imperial Picture House was equipped with a Western Electric(WE) sound system. The cinema was taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) in 1936. Apart from the installation of sound and later CinemaScope, the building remained unaltered. The Imperial Cinema closed on 4th May 1968 with a double-bill programme; Stephen Boyd in “Assignment K” and Lee Marvin in “Cat Ballou”.

It was converted into an Alpha Bingo Club which was sold to the Star Cinemas chain and was re-named Star Bingo Club on 23rd May 1969. The bingo club closed in around 1996, by then operated by Gala Bingo. It re-opened in March 1997 as ‘The Imperial’, one of the J. D. Wetherspoon chain of pubs. Wetherspoon’s closed the pub on 19th March 2016. It remains boarded up in March 2019. Plans were proposed in April 2021 to convert the building into 21 one-bedroom flats.

On 7th January 2022 the Imperial Cinema building was declared a Grade II Listed building by Historic England.

Contributed by Lost Memory, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

WalsallLocalHistoryCentre on November 28, 2013 at 4:51 am

I am doing a history of the Hall. I will post it when complete.

Mike_Blakemore on November 28, 2013 at 7:51 am

Hmm SNAP!! Stuart So am I

Mike_Blakemore on November 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm

The Theatre did open in 1868… I beleive there was a mix up in the date due to an earlier theatre in “The Square”. which was still standing when I was a child..

Mike_Blakemore on September 30, 2014 at 5:51 am

I think I have found an error.. Hmm using other sources It looks as though Archibald Hurley Robinson had no had if the Major change for Sound films or the current frontage. This was based theory was based on the “Rookery Cinema” Handsworth Birmingham which is credited as an Hurley Robinson design by the experts.. The Architect that should be credited should be the local firm of “Hickton and Falmer” That did other work for the Walsall Theatre Company.. At the same time calls into question the Rookery Cinema. which could have been one of the lost Hickton and Falmer designs..

Mike_Blakemore on September 30, 2014 at 5:59 am

In 1898 ish.. The Walsall Theatre Company had planned a brand new Theatre on the Imperial Site. which involved taking over extra land to the left. The Walsall Council it seems offered the land that was earmarked but never used for the new Walsall Townhall. So they Built the Spectacular “Her Majesties Theatre” on Townend Bank..

Mike_Blakemore on March 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm

Wetherspoon’s have announced that the pub will close Saturday 19th March…

Mike_Blakemore on February 8, 2017 at 11:43 am

Forgot to mention I manage The Cinema During the last Four Weeks of its life as a Cinema.. It was Ironic that I did this as My Family owned the Theatre with the Westwood Family “Walsall Theatre Company” prior to it becoming ABC Managed.

Mike_Blakemore on November 6, 2017 at 2:39 am

Latest Gossip Wetherspoons will be re-opening the Imperial as they are still paying rent on the site. £75,000 per anum until 2047 ….

CaptainC on November 8, 2018 at 3:20 pm

The Imperial was the second-string ABC cinema in Walsall. My recollection is that the films shown had already done the rounds, or were “cheapo” Italian epics with titles like Arm of Fire and Ursus, usually starring Gordon Scott or Steve Reeves. However, I did see Charge at Feather River at the Imperial which was a 3D western. Always remember it was 9d(4.5p) to get in and 6d(2.5p) for the card-framed red-and-green glasses. As attendances dropped the Imperial resorted to showing late-night horror marathons or"adult" art films like Mondo Kane. Not forgetting the naturist films or spurious “documentaries” like London by Night!

Mike_Blakemore on November 9, 2018 at 2:46 am

CaptainC The Imperial was up until the 1950’s would have got the secondary ABC release. plus the added weeks passed from the ABC Savoy as there was very little Retained for further weeks due to far more films being around then there are today From the 1960’s With fewer films it slipped into Classics. pass on from the ABC and the more shady class of films. Remember ABC did not play Rank Releases in those days.

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