268 Northfield Avenue,
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Located in the south-western district of Northfields in Ealing, west London it opened as the Avenue Theatre on 5th September 1932 with the movie “The Honorable Mr. Wong” starring Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young and the British film “Lord Babs” starring Bobby Howes. On stage was an acrobatic dance troupe and Bertram Orsman was at the console of the ‘Avenue Wonder Organ’ a Compton 3 Manual/6 Rank instrument. The theatre was also equipped with its own small cafe/restaurant located over the main foyer.
The main feature of the architecture, unusual in a UK cinema was its use of a Spanish theme which inside the auditorium was given an Atmospheric style treament with little villa’s along the side walls. The ceiling treatment at the Avenue Theatre was different to most Atmospheric style theatres in that instead of having a plain blue ceiling with twinkling stars and cloud effects, here we have a Spanish courtyard prepared for a fiesta with a draped valarium in richly embroided striped tapestry, gathered along the centre and hung in loops towards the side walls. In other words; a tented ceiling to shade from the sun. Lighting came from elaborate lanterns which hung from the ceiling which gave a warm amber glow, and soft backlighting behind the villa’s on the side walls.
The Avenue Theatre was taken over by the ever growing Odeon Theatres circuit in 1936 and the name was changed to the Odeon Theatre, Northfields, Ealing. In later years the cafe/restaurant was closed down and after some flood damage in 1970, the organ was removed from the building in 1972. The decorated tented ceiling material was replaced due to years of dust, grime and tobacco smoke damage and the replacement material was a pleated plain red cloth, which to my eyes looked a little cheap.
The Odeon became the Coronet Cinema from 15th November 1981 when Rank Theatres leased it to Shermans Coronet Circuit. This only lasted a few years and it closed on 17th January 1985 with Arnold Schwarzenegger starring in the aptly named “The Terminator”.
An application for conversion to a bingo hall was refused and the Ealing Cinema Trust was formed to save the building and re-instate cinema use. However the building was sold and plans were put forward to convert it into a nightclub and build a supermarket on the car park.
Suprisingly, the nightclub use was approved, but the supermarket was refused! All seats and stage fittings were removed, the orchestra floor was terraced and the circle re-stepped to become the bar area which had tables and chairs and it opened as the Top Hat Club in May 1988, this lasted until 1994.
It was then taken over by the Elim Penticostal Church who over the years have slowly been renovating the building back to its former splendour.
On 14th October 2000 the Cinema Theatre Association (with the co-operation of the church), organised the first film show in the theatre for 15 years. A temporary screen, 35mm projector, sound system and seating was set up and several hundred members of the CTA attended a screening of the classic Ealing comedy film “The Lavender Hill Mob” starring Alec Guinness.
The theatre has been a Grade II* Listed building since 1974.
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