Cinema antics from the 1950s

Regent Cinema
From a private collection

In the 1950s, there were quite a few cinemas in the town. The Odeon in West Street, The Savoy in East Street and The Regent in North Street were the main ones. You also had The Academy in West Street, The Palladium on the seafront (Brighton Centre), The Essoldo on North Street and others. The most notorious was The Arcadia in Lewes Road (now the Labour Club). It was nicknamed ‘The Scratch’ and it lived up to its name. The usherette walked up and down the aisle with a DDT spray killing the fleas and I’m not joking!

Into Kemp Town you had the Odeon. They had a feature film from Monday to Wednesday, a different feature film on Thursday to Saturday and on Sunday, a B film. I am sure that all the people that were there on Sundays remember me. At some stage of the film I used to dress up according to the film. I was a Red Indian for Cowboy and Indians films. I would run down the aisle, go up the steps and run across the stage whooping like an Indian. Everyone used to cheer, but one day I got too brave. The film was ‘Beau Geste’. The girls made me a cap with a handkerchief sewn on the back. As the film started I marched across the stage, stood right in the middle of the screen and saluted. Once again the cheers and claps, but it was short lived because staff were waiting for me and came from both sides to catch me, to the boos of the audience. They took me to the foyer and photographed me.

For the next four weeks I was banned from the cinema. I tried cheekily to get in time and time again, but my mug shot was in the cashier’s box hanging on the wall, so I stood no chance. Still it was all back to normal after a month.

Other cinemas down town took the brunt of our jokes. We used to buy 1lb packers of self-raising flour, bunk in the pictures (get in without paying) and sit upstairs in the front seats. We’d open the flour and watch it drift down to the downstairs seats. The flour drifted very slowly and, as it hit the peoples heads below they automatically looked up and within seconds their faces were pure white. We’d point over, laugh and scarper.

In The Academy cinema, for a dare, I rode a motor cycle up through the fire doors, up the aisle of the cinema, hit the steps at the top and ran out of the entrance, leaving the bike in there (it wasn’t mine, it belonged to a friend)! The noise even frightened me as I rode the bike but it only took seconds to get up the aisle. My friend, who lent me the bike, got the bike back and, touch wood, I never got caught. I certainly didn’t own up to it! After all of this kind of activity it would be hypocritical of me to condemn anything youngsters do today. Still no one got hurt and a lot of people got enjoyment over my antics, especially at the Odeon Kemp Town.

Comments about this page

  • I only mentioned the cinemas I frequented. My page was meant to entertain and bring back a few memories for some people. Your comments made me feel like a naughty schoolboy, being told off by his teacher for not doing his homeowrk properly.What?!

    By Harry Atkins (10/06/2007)
  • Hmm – there was also the Gaiety in Lewes Road. Built not too long before WWII, it was the latest one to serve an eager clientele. Queues “a mile long” could be regularly seen. A distinctive feature was an extremely large settee, up inside the place before one reached the doors to the auditorium. My, what a posh bit of furniture. Oh, and the toilets had an emergency door; only to be opened from the inside of course …. (Yes – you guess right!)
    The deliberately tall exterior with its several separate squared pillar-like columns bearing neon gas lit tubes of various colours presented a glorious blaze of colour in the night sky, the hue from which could easily be seen from where I lived at the Falmer end of Moulsecoomb, some miles away. When it first appeared, it was such an innovation that we cycled or walked to it to witness its splendour. The odd richer ones caught a 31b Southdown ‘bus from its waiting stop by the island adjacent to the main road round the corner from our house at 34 Newick Road. Things were looking up for some!
    About the first dozen front seats cost 4d. The rest were 6d whereas the Arcadia (Scratch) was 3d and 4d. Snobbery was on the way and kids felt good to say they’d been to the Gaiety!
    I can remember the first warning signs of an air raid at Brighton whilst in the Gaiety when the screen would suddenly go black and we would all be told that the sirens had sounded. At the beginning, members of the audience were invited to leave if they so wished. Nobody did.
    It was kitted out with a mighty organ that rose up from the bowels of the stage area with a man playing it as it came up. In those days, kids easily joined each other on the buses in a “sing song” and the same applied to the rising of the organ. It was at that stage that I learned new words for some of the old songs and when we heartily rendered them at home my parents pretended to disapprove. In keeping with almost everyone I knew in those days, Mum and Dad used the odd swear word in front of us so they were more or less stymied.
    Yes, the Gaiety was part of our education with its Lone Ranger and Laurel and Hardy type stuff. Happy days.

    By Ron Spicer (22/07/2008)
  • You’ve all left out the Astoria. Before it showed epic films, it was an ordinary ‘pictures’ with a film all week and a horror film on Sundays. Good creepy stuff. Yes Ron, the Gaiety was good value: 9d and 1s in my day, and it had a film A+B Monday to Wednesday, another two Thursday to Saturday and more on Sundays. Happy days. I saw all the Tarzan fims there on Saturday afternoons in the front row!  By the way don’t you mean the bus from North Moulescoomb was a No 13B?

    By Joan (07/09/2008)
  • Another cinema was the Savoy in the Steine, it had two entrances one as above opposite the Greyhound and the other on the seafront. I remember it most of all because I queued one Saturday night after work with my friend to see Blackboard Jungle. The film which starred Glen Ford was OK but the opening music. Well the screen as always was black, up came the censor screen and……. ONE TWO THREE O’CLOCK FOUR O’CLOCK ROCK. Bill Haley, who else. We all got up and jived in the aisles. My pal and I were in the 1/10 seats downstairs in the front, all we could afford. When I hear that record I never fail to remember that night in 1956.

    By joan (08/09/2008)
  • What about the Duke of York’s at Preston Circus?

    By Henry (John) Stenhouse (09/01/2009)
  • Great! I have waded the whole page down hoping someone would mention the other flea pit ‘Duke of York’s’. I was dying to mention it myself but for the life of me could not recall the name. Next to the fire station, wasn’t it? My grand parents lived just around the corner so I passed it regularly. Didn’t go in there too often but certainly freqented most of the others cinemas mentioned.

    By Sandra (28/05/2010)
  • My father was the manager of the Acadamy, the Odeon and the Regent in the sixties.

    By Gary Tulley (28/11/2011)
  • My father was the manager of the Gaiety in the sixties, so I’m sure he knew your father Gary. How about the Continental in Sudeley Place, Kemp Town (fond memories). My late father told me there used to be a cinema in Haddington Street, Hove, and another in George Street, Hove, but these were before my time. There was also one that I think was called the Court, in New Road, Brighton.

    By Alan Hobden (29/11/2011)
  • Hi bluey, you wouldn’t remember me but those lousy blue shirts you used to wear years ago won’t go away- they still haunt me. For the record i’ve found another cinema for you that nobody else has mentioned- it was called the Paris Cinema in New Road just up from the Theatre Royal, they only showed foreign films mostly about Bridget Bardot. I hope you’re keeping well and enjoying your football more than those shirts.

    By Gary Tulley (29/11/2011)
  • For those who might be interested, I’ve discovered the following web page, which (allegedly) lists all cinemas, old and new, in Brighton & Hove and surrounding areas.

    By Alan Hobden (01/12/2011)
  • Anybody out there remember the ‘Tin hut’ rock & roll mecca in the 50s, situated at St Andrews Road, Portslade? It was run by a guy we called John. Well, you would wouldn’t you? Information please? Great memories.

    By Gary Tulley (01/12/2011)
  • I remember all there was to know about the Brighton scene when the Chrystal Palace was a goldfish bowl and the Albert Hall was a bus stop. You can’t buy memories.

    By Gary David Tulley (01/12/2011)
  • Re website recommended by Alen Hobden. That was a good call mate, I can’t believe how many cinemas have existed in Brighton over the years. It’s even more interesting to compare the sites as they are now.

    By Gary Tulley (02/12/2011)
  • Talking of cinemas in Brighton, approx 1962-ish, anyone remember a doorman by the name of Jack Morley? He was fairly dark haired with glasses?

    By Rachel Illsley (25/04/2013)
  • Hi Gary. How about sitting in the back room of the Reeve pub with your brother and Johnny and Pete Burtenshaw to name but a few, playing brag, and  sometimes it got a bit heated. Happy days!  Bluey

    By Harry Atkins (04/03/2014)
  • Due to my parent’s divorce, at the tender age of 5 I was sent to a children’s home on the boundary of Hove with Brighton. My parents came down to take me out for the day and I remember them taking me to a cinema I believe that was in Western Road. The date was late 1947. This is quite specific as I remember see a film called Scott of the Antarctic starring John Mills. Now to my main point: Was the cinema called The Black Cat cinema? I would be most interested to find out. Looking forward to hearing.

    By Howard C Huett (10/08/2015)
  • It was probably The Curzon (Classic) or perhaps the Embassy. I would put my money on The Curzon.

    By Peter Groves (11/08/2015)
  • Thanks for that Peter. Now for my real reason for asking: Can you tell me the name of the road opposite that cinema? This would help me get in touch with the local Authorities regarding the home.

    By H C Huett (13/08/2015)
  • From the Curzon and facing south, opposite and slightly right is Montpelier Road, and slightly to the left is Western Terrace.

    By Peter Groves (16/08/2015)
  • I think I counted about 13 cinemas in Brighton and Hove.
    One that nobody has mentioned was the “Continental” in Sudely Place just a couple of streets down from the Brighton General. Mainly French films were shown. I recall our French teacher taking a party of lads there in the 50s.
    I expect it is now closed. Similar programmes could be seen at the Paris cinema in New Road (once the Dolphin theatre).

    By John Snelling (19/12/2021)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.