The Royalty Cinema


 

This place is in such a sorry state, kinda heartbreaking to walk around seeing everything crumbling, ruined and littered with graffitti! I really enjoyed seeing this place with my own eyes;

It had been a place I’d wanted to experience for a long time and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

An Art Deco cinema of 1930, built to the designs of Horace G. Bradley, and converted to bingo use in the 1960s. first opened on 20 October 1930, in the early years of cinema exhibition with sound. The Cinematograph Act of 1927 had attempted to support British filmmaking in the face of the aggressive influence of Hollywood. Musicals and epics became increasingly popular in the 1920s, and evermore opulent and grand theatres were constructed for their exhibition.

It was designed by Horace G. Bradley for Selly Oak Pictures Limited, and could accommodate almost 1,500 patrons. It was taken over by ABC Cinemas in March 1935, as part of the organisation’s expansion in the West Midlands. The site had been the location of a terraced row of dwellings from at least 1890, as shown on the First Edition Ordnance Survey Map of that year. The row was demolished to make way for the cinema by 1930, and the new building, set back from the road edge, is shown on the Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1938. The cinema closed in 1963 and became a bingo hall. Some internal modifications have been made to the building in the later C20, including the insertion of a false ceiling in the foyer, the introduction of a staircase to the balcony in the auditorium, and the replacement of the equipment in the projection box.

Located in the Harborne district of southwest Birmingham, at the corner of High Street and Greenfield Road. The Royalty Cinema was opened on 20th October 1930 with Maurice Chevalier in “The Love Parade”. It was built for and operated by the local independent Selly Oak Pictures Ltd.

The Royalty Cinema was taken over by the Associated British Cinemas(ABC) chain in March 1935. ABC closed the cinema on 2nd November 1963 with Cliff Robertson in “P.T.109”. It was converted into a Mecca Bingo Club, and in 2010 it was operating as a Gala Bingo Club.

In recent years it has been closed and left unused, Until the devastating fire in september 2018 But what is ‘Art Deco’?

(This content was originally written in association with the exhibition ‘Art Deco: 1910-1939’, on display at the V&A South Kensington from 27 March – 20 July 2003.)

The term Art Deco, coined in the 1960s, refers to a style that spanned the boom of the roaring 1920’s and the bust of the Depression-ridden 1930’s. Art Deco represented many things for many people. It was the style of the flapper girl and the factory, the luxury ocean liner and the skyscraper, the fantasy world of Hollywood and the real world of the Harlem Renaissance. Art Deco affected all forms of design, from the fine and decorative arts to fashion, film, photography, transport and product design. It was modern and it was everywhere.It drew on tradition and yet simultaneously celebrated the mechanised, modern world. Often deeply nationalistic, it quickly spread around the world, dominating the skylines of cities from New York to Shanghai. It embraced both handcraft and machine production, exclusive works of high art and new products in affordable materials.

Art Deco reflected the plurality of the contemporary world. Unlike its functionalist sibling, Modernism, it responded to the human need for pleasure and escape.In celebrating the ephemeral, Art Deco succeeded in creating a mass style of permanence. Infinitely adaptable, it gave free reign to the imagination and celebrated the fantasies, fears and desires of people all over the world.

Art Deco, like its forerunner Art Nouveau, was an eclectic style and drew on many sources. Designers sought to infuse jaded traditions with new life and to create a modern style based on a revitalised decorative language. To do so, they borrowed from historic European styles, as well as from the pictorial inventions of contemporary Avant Garde art, the rich colours and exotic themes of the Ballets Russes, and the urban imagery of the machine age. They also drew on more distant and ancient cultures. The arts of Africa and East Asia provided rich sources of forms and materials. Archaeological discoveries fuelled a romantic fascination with early Egypt and Meso-America.

As far as architecture design encompassed decorative style of bold geometric shapes and bright colours, it encompassed furniture, textiles, ceramics, sculpture and architecture. The term was coined after the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriel Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts) held in Paris in 1925. The style spread across Europe to the United States and Britain, where it became a favourite for building types associated with the modern age: garages, airports, cinemas, swimming pools, office buildings, department stores, power stations and factories. 

There were overlaps with Modernism, with the use of clean lines and minimal decoration, but the style also lent itself well to buildings associated with entertainment, providing glamorous interiors for hotels, restaurants and luxury apartments.