Entertainment complex opened in 1965

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

The site of the Kingswest complex was partially cleared pre-war for a proposed winter garden, but the buildings fronting King’s Road , Kent Street and West Street were not demolished until 1963. Designed by Russell Diplock, the new building was the first phase of the massive West Street / Churchill Square redevelopment area, and opened as the Brighton Top Rank Suite on 10 November 1965; the original plans also included a banqueting hall, restaurant, cinema and car-park on the adjacent Sports Stadium site. The initial facilities included only bars and a large dance hall, but in December 1966 a tenpin bowling centre and an ice-rink, which was convertible into a conference hall for 6,000 delegates, were opened to compensate to some extent for the loss of the S.S.Brighton (see ” West Street “).
After only four years operation though, the bowling lanes closed in November 1970 and the ice-rink was closed the following September after financial losses; no more conferences were then held. In the summer of 1972 the building was renamed the ‘ Kingswest ‘, and underwent a £500,000 conversion; the lower floors were converted into several separate dance halls and bars, and the upper floor, the former ice-rink, was converted into a triple-screen Odeon cinema complex. Opening on 18 April 1973, the cinema replaced the nearby Odeon in West Street , and also the Academy and the Regent cinemas.
Further changes were completed in May 1987 when an arcade from King’s Road to West Street was opened, adding cafe.-bars and shops to the facilities of the Odeon , Busbys discotheque, and the Top Rank Suite. The building was renamed the ‘Kingswest Boulevard’, and two more cinema screens, on the ground and basement levels, were added; the changes coincided with the first Brighton Film Festival. In August 1989, a sixth screen was opened for 103 viewers in the former Boulevard restaurant in time for the second film festival on 8-10 September 1989. The Odeon can now accommodate 2,397 film-goers. On 22 March 1990 Busbys reopened as Oriana’s, while the Top Rank Suite was renamed The Event.
The Kingswest building is probably the most heavily criticised in the town for its appearance in such a prime location. The pale cream southern facade is topped by an unusual faceted roof of gold-coloured aluminium which was intended to glitter in the sun and to give the impression of floating as a band of reflected light at night. To many, however, the Kingswest is a plain, bulky, shapeless edifice. The appearance of the building has been improved since it opened though, and at least the site was spared the grey concrete drabness of many other buildings of the 1960s.
Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

Comments about this page

  • We moved to Brighton in 1966, and I remember going every week to the ice rink, I loved it. I remember that every now & then we would have to come off the ice to allow the dancers on for a while, was it every hour or half hour? It was so sad when it closed down.
    I also remember the Top Rank Suite, Every Saturday morning was for the children & I think Tuesday evenings were open for under 18’s, the bouncers used to stand on the stairs to stop the under 18’s going up to the bar.

    By Josie Campbell (19/05/2007)
  • I went to the Top Rank Suite quite often in the summer of 1969. The usual evening programme would be a live orchestra (playing current hits) and – alternating- a disc jockey would play records on stage. The stage revolved when the programme changed. There were – as myself – quite a few exchange students and young people from the continent making holidays.

    By Dieter Petzold, Düsseldorf (01/04/2009)
  • Hi I remember this also. The band was the Syd Dean Band and the stage used to revolve. We all used to spend our time walking round and round the Top Rank, and you used to be able to walk behind the stage. This is where people used to have a kiss and cuddle. There was also bars upstairs and you could sit upstairs and look down on the dance floor.

    By Pauline Jones (12/08/2011)
  • I remember when I was a teenager seeing some very good gigs at The Top Rank Suite. I saw ‘Genesis’ when they had Peter Gabriel and they were 3rd on the bill to ‘Rab Noakes’ and ‘Lindisfarne’, this was about 1971. In 1972 I saw ‘Thin Lizzy’ who were Supporting ‘Suzi Quatro’ and ‘Slade’ who headlined that night, Dave Hill had a broken leg and had to sit down for the show. Then also that year I saw ‘Mott The Hoople’. Another gig I went to see that ended up a bit of a nightmare was the first tour of Roy Woods ‘Wizzard’, It was a long night as it started at 7.30pm and we had to sit through about 4 bands that we hadn’t heard of, then around 1am Roy Wood came on the stage to announce they weren’t appearing as their equipment was on the M1! I managed to catch up with him before he disappeared and got his autograph, he was very apologetic. One gig I was itching to see was ‘Stone The Crows’ but I couldn’t get a ticket so I stood outside and listened through the door!

    By Paul Clarkson (22/02/2012)
  • I remember skating every weekend at the Top Rank rink to all the latest chart records. I remember also standing outside the disco one night – must have been around 68/69 trying to see in as The Equals were playing – I was with my best friend Veronica! We had loads of fun Sat and Sun afternoons going round and round that rink!

    By Beverley Munton (07/08/2013)
  • I went to the bowling alley in 1966. It was very good – so sad it’s not there now.

    By Jenny Kedian (28/06/2014)

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