Orginally a 19th century theatre

The Paris Continental cinema
Image reproduced with kind permission of The Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove
Photographed in 2011
Photo by Tony Mould

A Music Hall venue

The Paris cinema which was situated in New Road, had originally had been a theatre which was destroyed in a fire at the end of the 19th century. It was reconstructed after the fire and named the Empire Theatre of Varieties. At the beginning of the 20th century it became the Coliseum Theatre and hosted music hall shows.

A cinema in 1909

In 1909 cinema equipment was installed in the theatre, and the building was renamed the Court Cinema. The cinema changed hands several times before it closed in 1940 due to WWII. After WWII it was acquired by the Theatre Royal Brighton who leased out the building, and it operated once more as a theatre.

Falling audiences in the 1950s

In 1955, with falling audience numbers, the lessee J. Baxter Somerville, introduced foreign films in an attempt to keep it open and it became the Paris Continental Cinema. Unfortunately this scheme did not succeed and despite a campaign to save it, which was fronted by celebrated thespians like Laurence Oliver and Ralph Richardson, the Paris reverted to its landlords the Theatre Royal.

Closed in 1963

Permission was subsequently obtained by developers for demolition, and the Paris was closed in 1963. As can be seen by the ‘now’ photograph, the relentlessly bland office block which stands on the site today is a very poor substitute for its predecessor.

Comments about this page

  • Yes what a shame they pulled it down, the replacement is very plain! What is the building nearer, to the right ‘Chapel Royal’ perhaps a pub? Chapel Royal church is round the corner in North Street, so what was this Chapel Royal?

    By Peter Groves (25/01/2011)
  • Even on the very large copy of the image I can’t completely read what is printed on the light outside the building you point out. But I think it may be the church hall belonging to the Chapel Royal. Maybe if we are lucky, Andy Grant will pick this up and put us right.

    By Jennifer Drury: Website Editor (25/01/2011)
  • The building next to the Paris was The Chapel Royal Hall. There is a good view of it in the James Gray Collection, vol 25 image 57.

    By Michael Brittain (26/01/2011)
  • Thank you Michael – mine was a good guess then!

    By Jennifer Drury: Website Editor (26/01/2011)
  • Mine was so off the mark, probably due to my miss-spent youth, a pub called the Chapel Royal, what was I thinking!

    By Peter Groves (26/01/2011)
  • I believe that the interior items were sold at auction. Could anyone tell me who auctioned the items off?

    By Paul (10/08/2011)
  • If I remember correctly, the Theatre was called “The Dolphin” before it became the Paris Cinema.
    Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    By John Snelling (04/04/2020)
  • I remember the Paris Cinema well. In the sixties my husband and I used to go to the Theatre Royal every Saturday evening. Starting out in the afternoon on Saturday we would go to the beautiful Abinger Pub on Kings Road and have the most fantastic steaks and a Pimms and proceed to New Road. After parking the car (no hassle in those days) if we were a little too early for the theatre we would pop into the Paris Cinema where we saw the most amazing Italian films. They also had a super bar. I do remember Verna Lisi and Anita Eckberg (pardon the spelling) in some of the films which were always subtitled. We then wandered into the Theatre Royal which was almost next door – a magical place even now – to see the show. I was so sad to see the Paris Cinema go – replaced by a most unattractive building. Saturdays are not quite the same nowadays!

    By Jillian Foley (04/04/2020)
  • According to ‘The Encyclopaedia of Brighton’ the name changes for the Paris were as follows:-

    1905 Coliseum Theatre.
    1907 Court Theatre.
    1909 The building was converted to a cinema.
    1947 Dolphin Theatre.
    1952 Her Majesty’s Theatre.
    1955 Paris Cinema.

    By Derek Lake (04/04/2020)
  • Many years ago I did a ‘Brighton Theatres’ walk for an exhibition at the Museum for the 200th birthday of the Theatre Royal. I have some notes from then about the various theatres in New Rd and the site of the Paris shows this-
    May 1848 a music hall
    1863 Oxford Music Hall
    1867 fire at the Oxford
    1868 rebuilt
    1892 renamed Brighton Empire
    Then as listed in Dereks post above.
    Music halls often suffered fires, they were full of people, often smoking, they were constructed with wood and fabric scenery and unlike theatres could serve ‘drink’ in the auditorium . A mainstay of the halls income was selling hot food, invariably baked potatoes cooked on charcoal ‘wheelie bins’. The food could be eaten or thrown at bad acts. Add together a mass of people, smoking, flammable materials , hot coals and alcohol!….fire!

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (05/04/2020)

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