Villa Cross Picture House
Heathfield Road and Barker Street,
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Located in the Handsworth district in the northwest of Birmingham. Opened in May 1913 as the New Picture House, it was a project of Irving Bosco who went on to form Bosco’s Pictures Ltd. in 1920. It was located at the main intersection of Heathfield Road, Villa Road and Lozells Road.
The building was a wonderful example of an early picture palace that was beginning to replace the former shop conversions of half a decade before. The facade was dominated by a huge round ‘Rose’ stained glass window over the main entrance doors. Inside the auditorium, there were sculptured decorative panels on the side walls proclaiming ‘The World Before Your Eyes’ that were guarded by statuary of angels and cherubs. All very charming! Seating was provided in stalls and circle.
The cinema became part of the small Shapeero circuit and it was re-named Villa Cross Picture Palace. It was taken over by the Denman/Gaumont circuit from March 1928 and they continued to operate through the rest of its cinematic life, eventually becoming part of the Rank Organisation. It closed on 20th April 1970 with Rock Hudson starring in “Ice Station Zebra”. It went over to screening Asian films of the Bollywood type for a while and then was converted into a Bingo Hall which closed down in September 1984.
Sadly the Villa Cross Picture House found itself right in the middle of the Handsworth race riots of 9th September 1985 and it was badly damaged in an arson attack by the rioters. What remained of the building was finally demolished in 1989.
A sad demise of a cinema building that today would certainly be worthy of Listed status.
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