Regal Cinema

Fore Street,
London, N18 2XZ

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Regal Cinema

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This huge cine-variety theatre was built in the outer north London suburb of Edmonton by A.E. Abrahams, the architect was Clifford Aish who also designed the Regal Cinema, Marble Arch in Central London.

The Regal Theatre opened on 8th March 1934 and was an immediate success. As well as film shows they were accompanied by lavish stage shows. The 45 feet deep stage was fully equipped and even had a revolve in the centre which could rise up. The proscenium was 58 feet wide and there were 16 dressing rooms. There was also a Christie 4 Manual/15 Rank theatre organ that was opened by Sydney Torch.

The building which occupied a corner site on busy Fore Street and Silver Street also contained a restaurant and ballroom, which both had their own separate entrances. Inside the auditorium seating was provided on orchestra and circle levels and all lighting was hidden in troughs which ran in three bands around the proscenium arch and concealed lighting in the domes in the ceiling.

Within days of opening A.E. Abrahams had leased the Regal Theatre to the Hyams & Gale circuit and they operated it until they were taken over by Gaumont Super Cinemas in October 1935. Eventually Gaumont became part of the Rank Organisation but always the building was owned by the Abrahams family who installed clauses in the lease that it should always remain fully equipped as a cinema with full working stage facilities.

The stage was used less frquently as years went by, but still packed them in when artists such as The Beatles and even Frank Sinatra ventured into outer north London when the 2,940 seats were filled and the 1,000 capacity standing room was taken up.

But these events were few and far between and on regular film weeks, audiences were sparce and the with the size of the cinema working against it in the 1970’s, Rank closed the Regal Cinema as a full time cinema on 6th July 1972 with the movie “Chato’s Land”. It was re-vamped with the orchestra stalls seating removed and the floor leveled, the building became a disco and live concert venue named the Sundown. Groups such as Hawkwind, Doctor John, Steppenwolf and The Groundhogs played this venue.

However, this venture failed and on 24th March 1974 it re-opened as the Regal Cinema, using seating that had remained in situ in the circle. This also failed and the Regal Cinema screened its last films on 3rd August 1974 with a double bill British comedy programme “Steptoe and Son” and “Til' Death Us Do Part”.

The Regal Cinema was converted into a Top Rank Bingo Club and this lasted until 1985 when planning permission was granted for demolition and the wreckers moved in during November/December 1985. Right up to the end, the Rank Organisation had honoured the lease and kept all equipment in the theatre to full working order. Projectors were well oiled and run on a weekly basis just in case films returned, the stage revolve, curtains and screen were all there, even the Christie organ which was often still used at well attended concerts and to entertain the bingo players was in immaculate condition when the bull-dozers moved in.

A Safeway supermarket was built on the site which is today a Lidl supermarket.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

kategrogan
kategrogan on September 7, 2006 at 6:03 am

My Great Uncle was the Manager at the Regal in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. We’ve lots of photos and autographs, dedicated to him, from stars who appeared at the Regal (including Carmen Miranda!).

The Bradford Museum of Film & Photography in West Yorkshire has some memorabilia from this theatre/cinema relating to the stage designs, exhibitions etc.

My Granddad used to occasionally play the organ at the Regal too!

Darkwind
Darkwind on September 24, 2006 at 8:04 am

I remember the Regal from my childhood in the 60’s and can remember being taken to see my very first film there – Mary Poppins. Saturday morning pictures was a highlight of our week and you always had to get there early to be sure of getting in, it was so well attended. I also remember going to the Sundown disco, which was eventually closed because of all the trouble caused by local yobs at closing time. I believe somebody got stabbed there once – quite a rare event in those days – and it became something of a no-go area for a while.

I still live in the Edmonton area and recall something of a scandal when the site was demolished in order for the Safeway store to be built. It was reported in the local papers that the local council had placed a caveat on the planning permission, in that the facade had to be retained. There were rumours that the building had listed status, though I don’t know if that was true. Of course, the builders simply bulldozed the lot – whether by accident or design, I have no idea – but I gather they had to pay a hefty fine. (The same thing happened to our local Town Hall. It worked out cheaper for the builders to pay the fine than to preserve the building the way the Council wanted.)

I pass the Regal site every day now and, contrary to the last paragraph in the main entry above, the building now houses a Lidl supermarket. Shame.

kategrogan
kategrogan on January 30, 2007 at 5:53 am

Hi darkwind & cinefan
That was my Great Uncle – Ernest (Ernie) Hurry! A smashing man and greatly missed. He was always very proud of the theatre & his staff. He enjoyed running the Saturday club too.
It’s a shame I can’t post a photo of him on here with some of his stars – if I get round to making up a webpage I’ll put his photo on and post a link here.

andygarner
andygarner on February 1, 2007 at 8:15 am

Hi cinefan,
Good to know that the memoriy of this fine theatre lives on, I always thought that the demolition of the theatre was rushed through, visited in the early 1980`s and was surprised and gratified that everything in the projection room was still kept in good working condition(normally all the unused equipment is ripped out) but reading the comments above I now understand why, anymore memories of this fine theatre would be appreciated.
kind regards AndyJG

regent
regent on February 3, 2007 at 7:54 am

Hi darkwind & andygarner
Nice to know the Regal along with many more cinemas is still rembemered as anyone who has worked in them will know you think of them as “your” cinema I do have some bits & peices of the Regal & some photos if you would like to know more my e-mail address is .uk

pianotuner
pianotuner on March 27, 2007 at 11:26 am

I remember the Regal in the great days of the 50s. Jerry Lee Lewis, the pop concerts, The London Festival Ballet, Pantomimes etc. I also worked there in the 1960s. I remember Mr Hurry so well. He was a fantastic man. He was much respected and loved by the staff and affectionately known as ‘The Old Man’ a term also used for the captain of a ship. He ran the place like clockwork. I can see him now in evening dress and smoking a cigar! He was the spitting image of Billy Cotton. I often wondered what became of him.

Robert

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 30, 2009 at 5:49 am

A set of vintage photographs of the Regal Cinema:
View link
Three scanned images from the 1960’s:
main entrance:
View link
South side elevation:
View link
Ballroom (re-named Regal Rooms) entrance:
View link

jeremyb
jeremyb on December 21, 2010 at 5:32 am

The Christie organ from the Regal was re-installed in the Memorial Hall, Barry, Wales, but had to be removed in 2010 and is now in store awaiting a new location. The large Christie organ from the Regal, Marble Arch, was rescued in 2009 by organist Richard Hills and some colleagues, and is also in store awaiting a new home.

beano111
beano111 on April 27, 2012 at 4:34 am

I joined the Regal in 1958 as a trainee projectionist, the equipment was modern and in good condition to other cinemas that I visited on day’s off. I remember Frank Cooper was second projectionist at the time. apart from the films, we had a stage show once a month with the likes of Shirley Bassey, The Dave Clark Five, Helen sharpiro etc Where we used the Spot lights or worked back stage, we also used the spots in the Regal Rooms for Cabaret’s, so training was the best around. I left there in 1960 as third projectionist at the Metropole, Victoria and then onto the Columbia, Shaftesbury Avenue. But my love as always been the “Regal” Edmonton.

catherinemiller
catherinemiller on July 22, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I remember the Regal. My mother used to take me there to see films as well as live shows, I remember going with friends to see Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Wee Willy Harris, Joe Brown,and my favourite at the time,Cliff Richard. My nephew remembers seeing Rod Stewart and how he was kicking footballs about during rehearsals. I remember too the Saturday morning pictures as a child….6d to get in and 6d to spend !!! On your birthday you got a free entry and “Uncle Ernie” ( Ernie Hurry) wished you a happy birthday from the stage.I remember the Wurlitzer Organ….oh those were the days. It got replaced by “The Sundown” disco then was eventually demolished ( so sad ) and Safeway Supermarket took over. Safeway was later replaced by Lidl supermarket which is still in situ. The Regal was a magnificent building with a fabulous ballroom.It had 2 entrances with a small parade of shops between the entrances….Oh those were the days….sadly all gone..

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