Prince's Cinema

Lake Road,
Portsmouth, PO1 4HH

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Additional Info

Architects: Frank Matcham

Firms: Frank Matcham & Company

Previous Names: Prince's Theatre, Prince's Picture Theatre, New Prince's Picture Theatre

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Prince's Cinema

Situated close to the Fratton district of Portsmouth, the original Prince’s Theatre had opened in 1868 as a circus. After just one season, it was rebuilt and it re-opened, in December 1869, as the Royal Albert Theatre.

In 1872 the name was changed to the Prince’s Theatre. It had not been a particularly successful venture but, just as it’s fortunes were improving, in April 1882 the theatre was destroyed by fire.

The opportunity was taken to acquire some adjoining land, and a new, enlarged, Prince’s Theatre opened on 26th December 1891. It was designed by noted theatre architect Frank Matcham. Interior decorations were by De Jong & Company. It had a capacity for 2,300 including standing spaces. The proscenium was 29ft wide and the stage 45ft deep.

In August 1902 it was fitted with electric light and re-decorated throughout. In 1907 Frank Matcham returned to the theatre to alter the circle seating area into a cantilever circle, removing the supporting pillars. A cast iron balcony was erected along the front of the building.

By February 1922 the total seating was 1,453: Boxes: 14, Stalls 353, Pit 248, Circle 108, Upper Circle 230 and Gallery 500.

On 14th December 1926 the operating licence was transferred to Mr S. Zeid. The theatre was once again re-decorated, and re-opened as the full-time Prince’s Picture Theatre.

The licence was transferred to Mr J. Davidson in January 1927, Mr F. Studd in May 1927 and Mr Chant, of Princes Theatre (Portsmouth) Ltd, in May 1928.

In May 1930 ‘talkies’ were advertised for one week only, but these turned out to be silent films, with (an unspecified) form of sound accompaniment.

In June 1930 Princes Theatre (Portsmouth) Ltd. went into liquidation. The licence was transferred to Mr J. Martin. A new projection box was constructed at the rear of the Gallery, which was closed to the public, and projection changed from rear to front.

Seating now totalled 992 (Boxes: 14, Stalls 322, Pit: 384, Circle and Upper Circle: 272).

In August 1930 a further refurbishment accompanied the introduction of true ‘talkies’.

In December 1930 the licence was acquired by New Princes (Portsmouth) Ltd. Extensive work saw the removal of the Gallery and Upper Circle and the existing Circle enlarged.

On 3rd August 1931 it re-opened as the New Prince’s Picture Theatre, with 1,020 seats in the stalls and 442 in the circle (a total of 1,462).

In February 1927 the licence was transferred to New Era Cinema (Portsmouth) Ltd, then, in February 1938, to South Downs Cinemas Ltd.

By 12th December 1939 it was known simply as the Prince’s Cinema.

On 24th August 1940 the auditorium of the building was badly damaged by a German bomb. “Gates of Alcatraz”, starring Walter Connolly and Onslow Stevens, was being screened at the matinee performance. The audience was mostly children but, fortunately, there were only 8 children killed. The theatre never re-opened. The brick and terra cotta front of the building stood unused for many years until it was eventually demolished.

Contributed by David Simpson
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