A potted history

Image shows Princes Cinema in 1933.
Image produced with permission from Brighton History Centre

The Bijou Electric Empire opened in 1911 at no.63a North Street, the former printing works of the Southern Publishing Company. In 1915 it became the Prince’s Electric Theatre, the Bijou Select Palace in 1918, and the Prince’s Cinema the following year.

Sound equipment in 1929
Sound equipment was installed in late 1929, and the building was transformed with a new foyer and neon-lit facade in 1933. In 1947 the cinema became the Prince’s News Theatre and then the Jacey in 1967, but was taken over in association with the British Film Institute in February 1969 and showed specialist films as the Brighton Film Theatre.

Closed in 1978
This venture closed in late 1978 following financial difficulties, but the building was reopened as the Cinescene on 10 September 1979 by Myles Byrne, and continued until June 1983. In 1988 the building was refronted as a Burger King restaurant.

Comments about this page

  • As a child I was also taken to this cinema by my dad in the 60s. I remember walking down the slope (as it still is in Burger King!) and the walls were painted black. There was small dark ticket kiosk on the left as you walked down the slope. We watched cartoons such as Mickey Mouse and Pluto, Donald Duck and ‘Thats all folks’! Great memories.

    By Sue Burtenshaw (29/01/2005)
  • I have very fond memories of the News Theatre as it was called when I was a kid in the 50s. That was the place to be on a rainy day. I don’t think that I have laughed so much since those days. More often than not there was a big fat man in the audience who had a real dirty laugh. This laugh was funny to me on it’s own. He could set me off at once by his laugh, he saw the funny side of the cartoons. Today I am addicted to the cartoons from the 40s, 50s and some from the 60s. I have collected all those cartoons on video and DVD and often watch them with my kids and grandkids, we love them to bits, they are so funny.

    By Mick Peirson (15/11/2006)
  • I left school at 14 and spent two weeks working at Allan and West. I then moved on to the Princes News Theatre, where I became a projectionist, until at 18. I was called up for national service in the RAF.

    By Peter (10/04/2007)
  • I was a projectionist here in the early sixties.
    I can’t remember the head projectionist’s name but we always called him chief. The other two projectionists were George and Cam [Mac spelled backwards].
    The highlight of the night sometimes [when the chief wasn’t on of course] was to wind up the houselights without switching them on. Then just as the program was about to end we would hit the switch and the lights would come blazing on without any warning.
    I can tell you there were some very surprised faces.
    Happy days.

    By Terry McCormack (20/05/2007)
  • My mum used to take me to this cinema. They used to show a lot of news films but the cartoons were my faves. Afterwards we would go to the Lyons Corner House at the bottom of St. James’s Street. Happy days.

    By Sandie Waller (24/05/2007)
  • Sometime in the very early 1970s as the BFT they had a wonderful full day showing of Buster Keaton silents complete with a pianist playing the original scores. Loved it and I do miss the BFT. It ran on a shoestring but had excellent and imaginative programmes.

    By Adrian Baron (10/01/2008)
  • My father Harry Allchin managed the News theatre in the late 1940s; previously he had managed the Grand Theatre in North Road. All my friends loved to be able to come along with me free to the the Princes and sometimes we would sit in there for hours watching the same show over and over again. Superman was the favourite and the three stooges the least popular. On my visits to Brighton I have never been able to place the building but now thanks to this web site I will know where it is.

    By Rosemary Barlow (12/03/2008)
  • Love the picture, especially as it shows two landmarks that I hope are still there (well they were a few years ago). Whenever I return to Brighton I always look for the Hatter’s advertisement painted on the side of the wall and the terracotta gryphen on the apex of the peg tile roof two doors down from where the cinema once was.

    By Roy Grant (06/11/2008)
  • I sometimes cut classes at the Tech to go to the Princes News Theatre in the early 1950s. I loved to laugh at the corny space adventure films where you could see the strings holding up the model – supposedly real space ships. Also the message on the screen, “would Mr. R. Jones please go to the box office”, repeated at intervals twice, then finally a monkey on the screen turned to the camera and said, with a little cartooned help with lip movements, “Hey, Jonesy, why don’t you go to the box office?” I wondered how often members of the Jones family fell for this, and what the box office personnel dealt with it!

    By Anthony Thomas Hill (15/05/2010)
  • I had many a happy afternoon in there when my dad would take me, in the late 50s. Of course the cartoons were most of it but also in those pre-TV days (in our house anyway) you could see Pathe News. I remember seeing footage of the Cup Final and the Grand National, and no doubt much more serious things that went over my head. Happy days!

    By Daniel C. (31/05/2010)
  • I remember this theatre with such fondness. I used to take my younger brother and myself to watch the cartoons and other items showing. Somehow, it seems we stayed for hours but I’m sure it wasn’t. It was all part of that wonderful time in the 60s. What happy memories.

    By Sandi Marchant (04/08/2011)
  • Some kids went to the ABC Granada in Hove for Saturday morning club – I went to the Prince’s. Even today, when I hear the opening music of a Pathe News on the tv, the memories of the Prince’s flood back…. and the voice of the 1950s David de Keyser commentating on Pathe Pictorials.. wonderful! BUT, folks, no one has commented on the thing that I wish I could reconstruct… you bought your ticket at the passimeter, the smart commissionaire (always cheery) would open the door from the foyer for you and, as commented previously, you would walk down the slope to either the first or second pair of double doors to the auditorium…. what I want to reconstruct is the SMELL of that corridor. I think it was a combination of polish, cigarette smoke and old fabric, it was pungent but it was by no means unpleasant. It was HOWEVER unique! And very Prince’s…

    By Tony Hagon (11/08/2011)
  • I made a comment three years ago about the terracotta griffin on the apex of the roof of a shop a few doors down. It can clearly be seen in the above photograph, but sadly it is no longer there and no one seems to know what happened to it. Fortunately I took a photo of it before it went.

    By Roy Grant (21/10/2011)
  • This cinema was a regular weekly visit for us kids as the whole hour programme was U certified, so didn’t need an adult to be with us and it was only a few pennies to get in. Returning from leave whilst in the army I often spent an hour in the Princes before walking up Queens Road to catch the train. Loved cartoons then and still love ’em now!

    By Dave Hamblin (20/03/2012)
  • I worked at this cinema when Myles Byrne was running it as a relief projectionist - £5 per five/six hour shift. He played some pretty odd films there if I remember right, a lot of them were BFI films played under some deal he had with the BFI to run the place. How the cinema paid it’s way I do not know as there never seemed to be many people in the cinema while I worked there. It did not surprise me when it closed for good.

    By R H Scott-Spencer (12/03/2013)
  • Lovely to see all those comments regarding the news theatre many moons ago. Of course I remember the Pathe news as well as the beloved cartoons. As a young kid I was always fascinated and sad at the sight of the ship that was sinking at the start of the Pathe news. The start of the news was split into four windows depicting different tragedies from the war I believe. And also the Rooster that crowed, I am a chicken lover. My parents were from different towns. My dad was Brighton born and bred and my mum was from south London. When we went to visit relatives in London I always wangled a visit with my mum or one of my aunties to go to the News Theatre in Victoria station. It was almost an exact copy of the cinema in North Street Brighton. Mike Peirson.

    By Mick Peirson (14/03/2013)
  • My dad would take me every Monday evening to see the cartoons in the late 1950s. As I went there every week, I noticed they often repeated cartoons, to this, I shouted at the top of my voice, “Seen It. Seen It. Seen It,” but they didn’t listen, they didn’t put another one on as I hoped!

    By Kevin Theobald (19/03/2013)
  • The chief projectionist was Tom Tester in the 1960s. I worked there as assistant manger. The manageress was Miss Mac ( short for McCubbin).

    By David Godley (07/05/2013)
  • The Prince’s News Theatre was a fabulous little cinema and I’m glad I am old enough to have experienced going there. I remember when I was about 14/15 going on a school outing to see the 1963 film ‘Lord of the Flies’ as we were studying it for English. That same year I went with a friend for a late night showing of ‘Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s’ ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. I remember the support film starred ‘Scaffold’.

    By Paul Clarkson (13/05/2013)
  • I’ve just seen the latest Lone Ranger movie and loved every moment. It got me thinking about seeing the old versions every Saturday morning in the late ’50s at the Prince’s, along with Superman and Tarzan. Someone mentioned the smell in the corridor. I remember it well. I fondly remember it all and think it’s a bit sad my grandchildren will not be able to experience those less sophisticated days.

    By Valerie Gloin (26/07/2013)
  • Another iconic building on this excellent website. I remember my father taking us three kids there for the cartoon films. It was a small, magic place and we used to laugh continuously at the cartoons. Comfortable seats and you could stay as long as you wished. The photograph of the street outside reflects the relative peaceful and safe atmosphere of those days; no lager lots hanging about in groups, just people getting on with their lives. Happy days.

    By Graham Sharp (21/11/2013)
  • I seem to remember going to this cinema in the late 50s and watching a mixture of news and general interest short films that lasted for an hour and then repeated. So you could go in at any time and spend an hour watching interesting and varied films. Is my memory correct on this?

    By Chris Kisko (04/12/2013)
  • I can remember being taken there with my parents for the cartoon shows. Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny etc. In the seventies I remember going there when they would have a week of focusing on a particular genre. i.e. sic-fi. And there used to be two films on a night! Happy days!

    By Jim Lewis (17/10/2014)
  • I would go to the Princes regularly on a Saturday for several years in the early 50s. You could sit through the program for as long as you wanted. One reason for going so often was that there was usually a serial film showing – each episode ending with the hero or heroine in some peril. I have a vague memory of seeing Ronald Reagan starring in one of these.

    By Robert Ducharme (21/05/2015)
  • I was a regular here on Saturdays in the 50s. The trip would be rounded off with tea and cake at Lyons down the road.

    By Mike Attree (24/05/2015)
  • This was our cinema so I believe many of your readers could be interested to know more about my late grandfather, Joseph Cohen.  I have only recently added to my website ‘The History of Jacey Cinemas’ with over 300 images of press cuttings and photographs from the early 1930s onwards. He was also involved in property and other projects, so there is a lot of information about him (not previously available on the internet).  Please do have a look at: –http://www.jncohen.net/JaceyGroup/JosephCohen.htm

    By John Neville Cohen (13/03/2016)
  • Response to Roy Grant’s post of 23/10/2011.  As a baby, then a child until I was a young teenager, my sister and I used to live above the dress shop called “Rosanna” that was run by my parents and which had the terracotta griffin perched on it’s roof.  Yes, it sadly disappeared and no one knew how or whether it had been taken away by an intruder.  It was very disappointing.  There is still the head of Shakespeare in the wall above the first floor window. It is quite a unique building with many memories for me of living there, looking out of the window onto the street below with all its passers by and the Regent Cinema opposite with its ballroom upstairs as well as the nearby Essoldo cinema. Fond childhood memories.   

    By Loretta (Ankier) (26/10/2016)
  • I remember this from visits to Brighton as a child and when I lived there between 1965 and 1966.  I used to enjoy going to the News Theatres in London.  These were important cinemas in the days before television and 24-hour news channels.  The cartoons were great fun in those days along with the travelogues.  Whenever I come to London and pass through Victoria Station, I always am sure to pass through the exit that passes the old entrance to the erstwhile News Theatre there.  Great memories of childhood days.

    By Charles S.P. Jenkins (05/02/2017)
  • I am interested in the life story of a chap named Arthur Sellman who may have been a projectionist and/or manager at this cinema in the 1930s – obviously I would like to contact someone who can verify that or tell me more.

    By Ned Williams (09/08/2017)
  • While waiting to go to Tec. College in the evening I would go next door to Lyons tea shop buy a bag of buns then have an hour in the Princes News Theatre watching all sorts including Tom and Jerry, great !! Would still be good now !

    By Martin Tidy (28/10/2019)

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