9 Haunting Abandoned Cinemas & Picture Houses of England

The abandoned cinemas and derelict picture houses of England (Image: Adam Slater; abandoned cinemas and picture houses of England)

In our modern world of multiplexes, it can be easy to forget the grand cinemas of yore. Not so long ago, ornate picture houses stretched over every corner of England. Each one offered something more than a simple screen. It offered a unique viewing experience, a perfect way to while away a rainy afternoon by settling into another world. Today, many of those old picture houses stand in ruins, their projectors shut off for the final time. Here are 9 of them:

Abandoned Cinemas: Eccles Crown Theatre (Greater Manchester)

Abandoned Eccles Crown Theatre (Greater Manchester)

The abandoned cinema auditorium of Eccles Crown Theatre in Greater Manchester

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eccles-crown-theatre-abandoned-manchester-3 (Images: Adam Slater; the thoroughly derelict interior of the abandoned Eccles Crown Theatre)

Dating back from the late 19th century (1899, to be precise), the Eccles Crown in Greater Manchester is a living piece of history. Or rather, it was until 2005, when permission to partially demolish was given by the local council. With this order yet to be acted on though, the abandoned Eccles Crown continues to serve as a physical reminder of the Victorian era, albeit one in an increasingly shabby state.

Originally a theatre, it wasn’t until 1932 that the building was finally converted into a cinema. And with three balconies, a pyramid roof and a cast-iron canopy, the Crown was the last word in grand. The arch above the stage even carried an allegorical representation of Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man carved into the plaster; an elegantly pretentious contrast to the sort of westerns and slapstick comedies frequently screened there. Inevitably though cinema numbers began to decline. By the 1960s, the Eccles Crown had met the horrifying fate awaiting many of its ilk. It had been converted into a bingo hall.

Still standing today, the abandoned cinema is now a health and safety inspector’s worst nightmare. The insides are rotted and debris strew throughout. It’s been slated for demolition on multiple occasions, and it can’t be too much longer before the wrecking ball finally arrives.

Abandoned Borough Theatre, Wallsend (Tyne and Wear)

Inside the abandoned Borough Theatre at Wallsend, Tyne and Wear

Derelict grandeur inside the old Borough Theatre, Wallsend (Tyne and Wear)

borough-theatre-wallsend-abandoned-3 (Images: Adam Slater; elegant Victorian plasterwork hidden beyond the ugly false ceiling)

A vast, imposing block of a building constructed in 1909, the Borough Theatre in Wallsend has the distinction of being the only abandoned picture house on our list to spend time as a recording studio. Originally a theatre that became a cinema, the Borough also spent time as a bingo hall and amusement arcade, before closing its doors forever in 2005.

Despite all those changes, it still retained some of its original character. The ionic columns that sprouted across the grounds like lean and classical mushrooms continued to decorate the interior. Baroque carvings too remained dotted around right up until the very end. Even the auditorium still felt passably like it must have before the first Great War, despite the addition of strip lighting and bingo tables.

Unfortunately, when it came to decision time on the closed theatre’s future, the council opted for demolition. In 2011, the building was torn down, taking over 100 years of history with it.

Abandoned Jesmond Picture House (Newcastle)

Inside the abandoned Jesmond Picture House (Newcastle) (Image: Adam Slater; old projectors at Jesmond’s abandoned picture house)

Newcastle's abandoned Jesmond Picture House prior to demolition

jesmond-picture-house-abandoned-2 (Images: Draco2008; neglected exterior of the abandoned Jesmond Cinema)

In May 1921, Newcastle’s middle class neighbourhood of West Jesmond got its first picture house. A big, blocky building sandwiched between two streets, the Jesmond Picture House was nothing if not vast. Its seating area could hold nearly 1,000, and its proscenium (the area surrounding the stage opening) was a staggering 26ft. For such a huge undertaking, it was also strangely old-fashioned. Long after every other cinema in the region had converted to sound, the Jesmond was still running silent shows, as if somehow hoping dogged determination alone could keep technological change at bay.

However, upgrade it eventually did. While other cinemas closed due to lack of interest, the Jesmond grew to accommodate the eye-wateringly wide cinemascope screens. Far into the 1980s, it still attracted visitors, with some estimating attendance at a minimum of 400 per night.

Sadly, it couldn’t last. When the new Warner multiplex opened in 1993, the Jesmond Picture House quickly went out of business. By the mid-2000s, the building was a wreck, its inside trashed almost beyond recognition. By 2009, the writing was on the wall. The abandoned picture house was torn down, leaving nothing in its place for several years before redevelopment of the site resumed.

Forgotten Portsmouth Odeon (Hampshire)

Abandoned cinema: the silent Portsmouth Odeon in Hampshire)

portsmouth-odeon-abandoned-2 (Images: Adam Slater; one of the abandoned Portsmouth Odeon’s smaller screens)

Adaptive reuse: the converted facade and lobby of the old Portsmouth Odeon (Image: Google Street View; original Art Deco facade and lobby now houses Sainsbury’s Local)

With its dizzying central Art Deco tower, the Portsmouth Odeon was once one of the most-iconic buildings in the harbour town. Stretching up some three stories, the Odeon first opened its doors in 1936, swiftly becoming a central part of the North End’s social life. It’s easy to see why. Unlike the modern box-design Odeon in Portsmouth, the older one was undoubtedly majestic, luring punters in with promises of an unforgettable cinema experience.

Sadly, the Odeon brand ensured the interior retained few of its original features. The giant central screen was broken up into various smaller ones, with the old ornate balcony of the 1930s painted a hideous blue and rechristened ‘screen one’. Although its outside remained elegant, by the end the interior was as bland as any multiplex.

Shut down in the 1990s, the building currently stands empty, a wreck of its former self. The lobby and tower have been converted into a Sainsbury’s, while the lower screens have flooded with grimy looking water and appear on the verge of collapse. Last we heard it was still standing, but plans were underway to tear it all down sometime in 2015.

Derelict Glenroyal Cinema (West Yorkshire)

The derelict Glenroyal Cinema in West Yorkshire

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Old seats in the hidden circle of the abandoned Glenroyal Cinema, now sadly demolished (Images: Phil.d; the abandoned Glenroyal Cinema’s hidden auditorium)

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Demolition of the derelict Glenroyal Cinema in West Yorkshire (Images: Humphrey Bolton; shipley43; abandoned picture house before and after demolition)

On September 5 1932, Glenroyal Cinema in Shipley threw open its doors for the first time. A large cinema housed in a glorious Art Deco building, it was the archetypal picture palace of the 1930s. Plush red seats crouched in quiet opulence beneath a sprawling ceiling. The central screen came with space for a jazz band below it. The hallway was crisp, light and stuffed with posters. For a long time, it was central to Shipley social life.

Sadly, that time eventually passed. 30 years after it first opened, the Glenroyal shut up shop and, like so many other picture abandoned picture houses, was quietly converted into a bingo hall. A bland false ceiling was installed, hiding the graceful Art Deco designs. Seats were ripped up, fixtures removed and the whole thing consigned to an ignominious sort of half-life. Eventually, the bingo hall closed too, leaving Glenroyal Cinema to decay in moth-ridden peace.

For a while, the building stood empty, its interior an amalgamation of two eras frozen together in time. Then, in 2013, it came to an end. A fire gutted the abandoned cinema and the building had to be torn down, bringing to a close 80 years of local history.

Derelict Derby Hippodrome (Derbyshire)

The abandoned Derby Hippodrome is a scene of total dereliction

Derelict cinemas: the abandoned Derby Hippodrome (Images: Google Street View; crumbling facade of the abandoned Derby Hippodrome)

The collapsed roof of Derby's derelict Hippodrome cinema (Image: Adam Slater; a view from ‘the gods’)

derby-hippodrome-abandoned-4 (Image: Adam Slater; total decay following collapse of the auditorium’s ceiling)

An ornate building that dwarfed its local rivals, the Derby Hippodrome was once the grandest show in town. Originally constructed in 1914 as a theatre, the building was famed for its excess. Two giant pilaster columns framed the stage, carrying a carved serpent. Baroque plasterwork detailed every inch of the ceiling. Nearly a thousand people could be crowded into two deep balconies, floating high above the stage.

The life of the building was no less ostentatious. Converted into a cinema in 1930, it then spent the best part of two decades shunting back and forth between picture house and theatre, before finally settling down as a bingo hall in 1955. It stayed that way right up until 2007, when a property developer bought it and let it fall into disrepair.

Fast forward to 2015, and the abandoned Derby Hippodrome is an utter wreck. A series of small fires have badly damaged the interior, and the partial collapse of the roof has left its gorgeous stage area open to the elements. Although some are campaigning to have it rebuilt, an imminent demolition followed by the swift construction of real estate looks increasingly likely.

Abandoned Carlisle Lonsdale (Cumbria)

Eerie silence inside the abandoned Carlisle Lonsdale cinema, Cumbria

lonsdale-cinema-carlisle-abandoned-2

lonsdale-cinema-carlisle-abandoned-3 (Images: Adam Slater; inside Carlisle’s abandoned Lonsdale Cinema)

How are the mighty fallen. That may well have been a common refrain from those who walked past Carlisle’s Lonsdale Cinema during its last days in 2014. Built in the 1930s, the boxy Art Deco building was once at the beating heart of the city’s cultural life. Right to the end, it retained a number of its original features, including two stained glass windows in the style of the interwar years. Eagle-eyed visitors might even be able to spot strange, cubist lights discreetly tucked into corners of the ceiling, alongside bizarre baroque carvings.

Yet none of this was enough to save it from demolition. Despite becoming a Grade II listed building in 2007, the Lonsdale Cinema was simply too neglected to be saved. With a heavy heart, its many fans watched as it sank into empty ruin; its screens shredded by vandals and its vast auditorium smashed up. Finally, in 2014, the council pulled the plug. Delisted from the city conservation area in 2010, the abandoned cinema was scheduled for demolition. Today, a car park stands in its place; an undeserved end for this mighty local treasure.

Decaying Burnley Empire Theatre (Lancashire)

Abandoned cinema: the Burnley Empire Theatre (Lancashire) (Image: Google Street View; the decaying facade of the former Burnley Empire)

The Burnley Empire Theatre's hauntingly silent auditorium, from the balcony

burnley-empire-theatre-abandoned-3

burnley-empire-theatre-abandoned-4 (Image: Adam Slater; empty auditorium and surprisingly ornate urinals)

The oldest building on our list, the classical Burnley Empire opened its doors for the first time in 1894, 121-years-ago. Almost as impressively, it managed to retain some its original features right up until the end; resulting in a gem of a theatre quite unlike anywhere else.

This was especially evident in the auditorium. Crowned by cornices and filled with Greek-style columns, the beating heart of the old theatre was massive in every sense of the word. Stretching upwards seemingly forever, it contained two separate balconies, several boxes, heraldic carvings and a vertigo-inducing ceiling that towered many storeys above the stage. While its outside was significantly less beautiful, the Empire nonetheless managed to establish itself as a local icon.

Converted into a cinema in 1938, its luck finally ran out in the 1970s. Transformed into a bingo hall, it flailed for a decade and a half before shutting up shop completely in 1985. Despite a local push to have it restored and reopened, the council listed the abandoned Burnley Empire as dangerous in 2013 and recommended demolition.

Eltham’s Abandoned Coronet Cinema (Greater London)

Eltham's Abandoned Coronet Cinema (Greater London)

Eerie scenes of decay inside the abandoned Eltham Odeon

eltham-coronet-cinema-abandoned-3 (Images: Adam Slater; the Eltham Coronet’s disused auditorium and AC unit)

Built in 1936, the Eltham Coronet (also known as the Odeon) was an Art Deco masterpiece. With its curved front and wide semi-circular lobby, it drew admirers from across the city, eager to see this architectural marvel. Inside was no different. With its bright colours, wide stage and carefully constructed auditorium, the Coronet was simply a wonder to behold. To those who grew up with it, watching a new film playing from its stalls was an experience they’d likely never forget.

Remarkably, it also avoided the bingo hall fate of many of its contemporaries. When Odeon sold the building in 1981, it went instead to an independent cinema chain, who rechristened it the Coronet and kept it open. Right up until 2000, the cinema played a mixture of old and new films to admirers, before finally falling into disuse and disrepair.

In the days since the Coronet closed its doors, time hasn’t been kind. The abandoned auditorium was demolished in 2011, though the old cinema’s Art Deco facade and entrance remained intact. In 2015, its magnificent 1930’s lobby was converted into a gym in an exciting project which cleverly retained the old ‘Odeon’ motif.

Related – The Beautiful Abandoned Theatres of the Northeastern United States

 

About the author: Morris M

 

 

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