Photos and articles about Brighton and Hove in the time of coronavirus. See our collection and add your own!

A potted history

This was Brighton’s first purpose built cinema opening on 22nd September 1910 with a showing of George Albert Smith’s ‘Byways of Byron’ (G A Smith was a pioneer Hove film maker with a studio in St Anne’s Well Gardens and later in Wilbury Villas). It was constructed on the site of Henry Longhurst’s Amber Ale Brewery and the wall of the malthouse forms the north wall of the auditorium. Built in the Edwardian baroque style it is largely unaltered and is still a cinema showing mainly art house films and is perhaps as well known for its pair of black and white striped legs overhanging the parapet.

Duke of York's cinema
Photo by Tony Mould

Comments about this page

  • As a kid in the late forties and fifties, the Duke of York Cinema was one of our ‘lovely places’ as we called it. My dad had a stall in the Open Market just down the road. Saturday afternoon, summer or winter we would take a bag of broken biscuits bought from the market and go to the Duke of York’s for an afternoon of films. A nice comfortable cinema which we loved.

    By Mick Peirson (22/11/2006)
  • My memories of the Duke of York Cinema was that they didn’t issue tickets at the box office, but brass discs instead. I agree with Mike Pierson, a nice comfortable cinema, as I used to attend the cinema during the same period, it being the nearest to where we lived at the time. Regarding the black and white striped legs, until they appeared on the roof of the Duke of York’s, they were mounted on the front of the Moulin Rouge Cinema in Headington, Oxford, which was where I first saw them. The present owner of the Duke of York’s is, as far as I know, a well known presenter on my local radio station, Radio Oxford, who lives in a house with a shark in its roof. He used to own the Moulin Rouge, from where the legs came from.

    By Vic Bath (30/01/2007)
  • I have been a projectionist at the cinema since 1980, The person that works at radio Oxford, whom Mr Bath mentions, is Mr William Heine, who indeed did own the cinema, but only up until 1995. The present owners of the cinema are City Screen Limited.

    By Jimmy Anderson (04/02/2007)
  • As a child I lived in New England Street in the 1950s and usually visited The Duke of York’s cinema every Sunday. My next door neighbour, Auntie Mabel as we called her, was the cashier and her father, a Mr Catlin, was doorman there for many years and on lots of occasions would let my brothers and I go in without paying. So many happy memories of that time.

    By Christine Halstead (nee Brindley) (08/10/2007)
  • When I was about 8 I used to have ballet classes in Headington, Oxford on New High Street. Every Saturday I would walk up the road to see the “shark house” and the “cinema with the can-can legs”. I remember being utterly devastated when the cinema was knocked down to make way for what is now a bed shop. Today I discovered for the first time that the legs didn’t get lost to history but are now in Brighton. I will have to come and visit them once more.

    By Bryony (28/03/2008)
  • My grand-dad was the projectionist at the Duke of York when my dad was little and he was born in 1944. He used to watch the movie through the window in the small room while his dad was working. I would love to get any information or photos that anyone has of my grand-dad his name was Tom Tillman.

    By Charlotte Tillman (06/10/2008)
  • I first recall going to “The Dukes” when it cost 9d to sit in the front few rows. It always reminds me of the picture “The Smallest Show on Earth” where Peter Sellars was the drunken projectionist, hanging on to the projector. The heating being turned up to help with ice cream sales and the ancient box office lady – Mrs Fazackerly. My late Mother-in-law worked there as an usherette in the ’90s – Mrs ‘Gin’ Bentley. Does any one remember her? 

    By John Snelling (11/11/2012)
  • I remember during the mid fifties going as a child to Saturday morning pictures here, I seem to remember it was rather un-flatteringly, called the “fleapit”. However, I have very many happy memories of this cinema and am glad it has survived the ravages of the 20th Century unlike most of its contemporaries.

    By Chas (09/10/2013)
  • Who remembers the double seats that they used to have in the stalls. Great for those romantic encounters of youth, but somewhat embarrassing if you did not realise it was a “double” – if you left your seat and tried to lift it up the person next to you suddenly shot up in the air.

    By Paul Gregory (13/03/2014)
  • Hi Charlotte this may be a long shot but I was at school with Brian and Eddie Tillman, this was at Fawcett School in 1955/6. I have lived out of Brighton now for over fifty years. If this rings any bells please feel free to contact me on my email address. JOHN.WIGNALL@HOTMAIL.CO.UK

    By John Wignall (02/10/2014)
  • The first film I saw at the Duke’s was ‘Zulu’, probably around 1973 or 1974. Went with my dad and grandad. Visited regularly after that. In the late 70s always went to the late night horror double-bill on Friday nights which started about 10 or 11pm. We used to try to get the three seats that sat by themselves in the balcony. The weirdest film I ever saw there was ‘The Beast’, the freaky kitsch horror fantasy by Walerian Borowczyk. Within 20 minutes of the film starting people were walking out in droves. For the rest of us – never seen the like! Strange film.

    By Mike Bradshaw (16/07/2016)
  • Hello! We are collecting memories about the Duke of York’s for a film we are making. If you are interested in sharing your memory, please email in to this address: Thanks! Sophia

    By Sophia Carr-Gomm (25/11/2016)
  • Hi Sophia, if you are doing something on the Duke of York, you should take note of the article on the website that I wrote about Ernest Edward Thomas, who fired the first shot of WW1 by the BEF. He was a Commissionaire at the Duke of York for many years. Regards

    By Andy Grant (01/12/2016)
  • There is a piture of him on Duke of Yorks, ‘Memories of Auntie Mabel’.

    By Terry Hyde (02/12/2016)
  • I’m sure those legs used to be set between a large pair of (gloved?) white hands.

    I’m so glad they still exist in some form, though. I loved them.

    By Marie B (03/02/2020)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *