A potted history

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.

Several pioneers of the motion picture industry lived and worked in Brighton and Hove in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Particularly notable are William Friese-Greene at Middle Street (see “Old Town“), George Albert Smith at St Anne’s Well Gardens (see “Hove”), and the first film-maker in Brighton, Esme Collings of Alexandra Villas (see “West Hill”).

Regular film shows were given at Hove Town Hall as early as 1895 by these pioneers, while the first demonstration of the ‘Celebrated Animatographe’ in Brighton was given at the Victoria Hall in King’s Road (possibly no.132) on 1 July 1896. The first authentic cinema in Brighton, the Queen’s Electric, opened in 1910 in Western Road; the Duke of York’s, now the oldest cinema in the town, opened the same year.

The era of the giant cinema lasted from the 1920s until the ’50s and led to the building of the Regent, Savoy, Astoria, Odeon and Essoldo cinemas with smaller auditoria in the suburbs. Rationalisation of facilities in the 1970s led to the multi-screen venues concentrated in the town centre. Although there are now only three cinemas (eleven screens) in Brighton, many others have operated over the years with a maximum of seventeen from 1937 until 1939 when there were also five more in Hove and Portslade; several former cinema buildings still remain. An eight-screen Cannon cinema is planned for the Marina, due to open in March 1991.

From 21 until 25 May 1987 the Cannon and Odeon cinemas played host to the first Brighton Film Festival; the second was held on 8-10 September 1989.
For details of all individual cinemas consult the index entry on “cinemas”.

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. The following resource(s) is quoted as a general source for the information above: {68-68b,123}

Comments about this page

  • The Odeon Kemptown was our local cinema in the forties and fifties when I was growing up. I started going there with my mum and my sister in about 1949. My mum would meet us from St. John the Baptist School in Bristol Road and then it was just a short walk to the Odeon. We always had a picnic in the interval, usually egg sandwiches that could be smelt for miles around, and a big bag of broken biscuits, and if we were lucky a tub of ice cream with a little wooden spoon. Then a walk home to Bennett Road. Later on in life, I went to Saturday morning pictures at the Odeon. For sixpence you got a singsong with the manager who would gesture with his arm as though conducting us. There was a cartoon, a serial like The Lone Ranger or the Knights of the Round Table, and then a film to round the morning off. Then it was over the road to a bakery for a couple of slices of lovely thick bread and dripping and two or three stale cakes for another sixpence. Pocket money all gone for another week, but well fed and contented. Sad to see it all gone now, but happy memories.

    By Mick Peirson (21/01/2007)
  • The cinemas that featured in my childhood and growing up years were The Odeon Kemptown, The News Theatre and the Duke of York. The Duke of York was a comfortable cinema that has good memories. My father had a stall in the Open Market just down the road so most Saturday afternoons were spent in the Duke Of York. If the weather was lousy the place was always warm and welcoming and, if it was boiling hot, it was always a lot cooler inside. Our snack for the afternoon was a big bag of broken biscuits bought at a stall in the market. It always seemed a lot quieter than the Odeon for some reason. I haven’t seen the cinema for over forty years, but I remember the black and white tiles that covered the floor outside. Glad to see that it is still going.

    By Mick Peirson (22/01/2007)
  • The projection room was originally equipped with Kalee eleven projectors. When 70mm came along in the late fifties it was equipped with Philips DP70 projectors. These were dual gauge 35mm/70mm. My father and I went to see a 70mm print of Mutiny on the Bounty there in 1963. The sound was superb. There were six sound tracks giving great seperation and realism.

    By David Ellis (15/10/2009)

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