Biograph Cinema

47-48 Wilton Road,
London, SW1V

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cinevariety
cinevariety on June 12, 2016 at 6:31 am

This is my favourite flea pit cinema of all time closely followed by the Tolmer. For some reason, Victoria was a very popular haunt for Gays. Maybe as it was on a main line station. The News Theatre on the station was also notorious as was the back circle of the New Victoria, now Apollo Theatre next door and the Classic Cinema which I helped manage in the 60s. Somehow the swish Metropole Cinema remained straight ! The downfall of the Biogragh as a gay haunt was the arrival of Henry Cooper’s look a like brother as the manager. He had all the lighting turned up so much that the picture on the screen was faded. torches everywhere and many people chucked out.There was no warning of closure, the reason was to do with money offered for the land the building was on. Much missed.

SpurredoninDublin
SpurredoninDublin on September 16, 2015 at 9:15 am

I saw the mention of a bouncer. Among the last managers of this cinema, was George Cooper, identical twin brother of boxer Henry Cooper who fought Muhammud Ali for the world heavyweight championship. George had also been a pro boxer.

I heard several stories of him carrying out “evictions” with the errant customer trying to demand their money back. Once they got into the light of the foyer and saw “Henry Cooper” confronting them, must dropped their claim for a refund.

Regarding the sudden closure, I heard that the owners were concerned that Westminster City Council might place a preservation order on the building because of it’s “ancient” history, so they acted quickly to make sure there was nothing to preserve.

ChrisN11
ChrisN11 on July 30, 2015 at 7:24 pm

I saw ‘Jungle Burger’ there shortly before it closed, on Monday 30th May 1983 to be precise (I was 19 at the time) and was baffled by the procession of men going to the toilet, not knowing at the time that it was a gay haunt. It was rather annoying but I did not think to ask for a refund.

Robbie25646
Robbie25646 on August 24, 2012 at 9:34 am

Not only the “Commissionaire” patrolled the cineman when I worked there even the manageress used to do a walk-round and was known to pass comments to those patrons being naughty.

andygarner
andygarner on February 19, 2010 at 3:44 pm

When I was a lad in the late 1960s I visited the Biograph, not knowing anything of its seedy reputation, after paying for my ticket and a Frys 5 centre chocolate bar at the paybox, I took my seat to see a double bill of “The Dresser” with Albert Finney and the Hitchcock classic “Physco” I was struck immediatley by the amount of movement from seat to seat, the constant banging of the Gents toilet door, and the general air of furtiveness about the place with lots of patrons having stategically placed newspapers over their laps…..boy did I grow up quickly that afternoon!
As per previous posts the lights never grew really dim, and every so often the commisionaire (with the biggest torch I have ever seen)shone the light along the rows of patrons where all the types of activity would suddenly cease. I don`t remember much about “The Dresser”, but I do remember being really drawn in to “Physco” despite it being in black & white. The Biograph was still showing a newsreel at the time as well, when the majority of cinemas had stopped showing them by then.
A trip to the nearby New Victoria cinema, or the Cartoon Cinema in Victoria station( where I subsequently saw “Inchabod & Mr Toad”) were very tame experiences when compared with what was going on in the Biograph !!!

JohnHolloway
JohnHolloway on July 23, 2009 at 10:38 am

Young and innocent(?) How i wish I had the balls to visit this cinema when living in London during the 1970’s. Would love to know what theatrical/architecural piece of history was lost to London when demolition took place.