33 Bell Street,
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Architects: L.T. Hunt
Previous Names: Odeon
Located in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. The Regal Cinema was built on the site of the Picture Palace/New Palace Cinema. It was opened on 14th May 1937 with Jack Hulbert & Cecily Courtnedge in “Take My Tip” and Buster Keaton in “The Chemist”. Built for the County Cinemas chain, it was designed in a Neo-Georgean style on the exterior and had an Art Deco style interior. It was equipped with a Western Electric(WE) sound system. It had a 15ft deet stage and there was a cafe/restaurant for the convenience of its patrons. Soon after opening County Cinemas were taken over by the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd. The Regal Cinema was re-named Odeon in 1945. They operated the cinema until 21st March 1959, when it was taken over by independent operator B.T. Davis and it reverted back to its Regal Cinema name.
In 1972 the cafe/restaurant was converted into a bar and that same year a Compton 3 Manual seven unit organ was installed. The instrument had previously been installed in the Ritz/Essoldo Cinema, Tunbridge Wells. It was opened by noted organist Reginald Dixon. In 1975 an illuminated surround was added to the console and it was placed on a lift which had come from the Regal Kingston-upon-Thames. The organ was played regularly on Saturday evenings and special organ concerts on Sunday’s right up to the time when the cinema closed without warning on 29th May 1986 with “Back to the Future”.
A ‘Save the Regal Trust’ was set up and a hard fought battle to save the building lasted several years. But it was to no avail and the Regal Cinema was demolished in December 1993. The Compton organ was removed from the building just prior to demolition and was installed in the Burtey Fen Collection in Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire, where it still entertains organ enthusiasts.
A Waitrose supermarket was built on the site of the Regal Cinema which also includes a new twin screen Regal Cinema on an adjacent site which opened in February 1997 and today is operated by Picturehouse Cinemas.
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