998 London Road,
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Opened as the Alvaston Picture House on 25th March 1925 with Lionel Barrymore in “Decameron Nights”. It was located on the main London Road (corner of Burnaby Street) in the Derby suburb of Alvaston.
When first opened it had a pathway from the pavement that was flanked on either side by bushes of rhododendrons and laurels. In later years this area was paved over.
The Alvaston Picture House was never an architectural gem, but served the local community very well over the years and was a popular local cinema.
Seating was arranged in stalls and a small circle and a popular feature that was retained throughout its life was the rows of ‘double love seats’ across the back row and down the sides of the auditorium. There was no stage and curtains were of the festoon type, which unusually opened sideways rather than rising up. The cinema had a large car park.
It was taken over by the management of the Coliseum Cinema in the City centre and they upgraded the building when it was closed for two weeks. It re-opened on 10th August 1939 as the Rex Cinema screening Errol Flynn in “The Adventures of Robin Hood”.
In January 1947 it was taken over by the J.F. Emery Circuit of Manchester (along with its sister cinema the Allenton Cinema-now re-named Broadway). In November 1954 it was taken over by the Leeds based Star Cinemas circuit.
On a personal note; this is where I come into the story as the Rex became my local cinema, first of all as a member of the Saturday morning/afternoon childrens cinema club attending weekly visits to follow “The Adventures of Captain Marvel”, “Atom Man vs. Superman”, and “Mysterious Island”, etc. Soon I would be old enough to attend regular evening performances on my own. The Rex Cinema became my home from home, especially when the programming became three changes of double bill programmes a week;Sunday and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday through Saturday.
Star Cinemas wanted to closed down the Rex Cinema, Alvaston and the Broadway Cinema, Allenton, but they leased them to the current manager at the time Henry Bianci, who later gave up on the Broadway Cinema to concentrate on the Rex Cinema. It became ‘Derby’s Only Independent Cinema’ and was operated with the wishes of the local patrons and community in mind.
Star Cinemas wanted the building back with an eye to converting the building into a bingo club, and despite operating at a profit and numerous petitions to keep the cinema on film, the lease to Mr Bianci was terminated and the Rex Cinema closed on 22nd October 1966 with a screening of Howard Keel in “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers”, one of the most popular films to play there over the years.
It opened as a full time bingo hall operated first by Star, then passing to EMI, but film shows were held on Saturday mornings for children and on Sunday mornings for the Asian community screening Bollywood films.
Bingo players eventually went to the larger bingo halls in the town centre which offered bigger prizes and the Rex Bingo Club closed down. It became a nightclub called the Rainbow, then briefly a ‘Fun Club’ before it was closed and left empty.
Plans were put forward to demolish and build housing on the site, but before that happened vandals broke in and set the building on fire. Several more fires were started over the next few months until eventually the ruined building was demolished in July 1983 and showrooms for the Derby Caravan and Leisure Centre were built on the site. By 2010 this was occupied by a Mitsubisi car dealership.
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