Coliseum Cinema

69 London Road,
Derby, DE1 2NS

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Coliseum Cinema

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The building was originally the London Road Congregational Church which was built in 1842. The exterior looked like a Grecian Temple, it had four Corinthian columns set on huge plinths at their base, and they supported a pedimented cornice on top of the building. On the exterior side walls were five large windows on each side.

The building was converted into a cinema and it opened as the Coliseum Cinema on 4th April 1934 with Leni Riefenstahl in “S.O.S. Iceberg”. Transformation by architect T.H. Thorpe of Derby included the addition of a very large canopy that extended from the pavement to the front entrance to the building which was set well back from the street. The side wall windows were bricked in and the interior was given a modern Art Deco style. Seating was provided in a well raked stalls area and a balcony was added to the building. A Compton theatre organ was delivered for installation in 1933, but due to financial difficulties during the conversion of the building, it was returned to the makers and never installed. The cinema did have a small cafe that was installed into the circle foyer.

The Coliseum remained an independently operated and owned cinema throughout its life and played many programmes that did not get the major circuit releases. Big films still played here on second run, like Walt Disney classics and the Midlands premier of “Quo Vadis” played here for three weeks. But it was the great programming in the mid to late 1950’s that I remember the most. The Coliseum was the first cinema in Derby to be equipped to play 3D films, it played “War of the Worlds” when the circuit houses refused to book the film because it was ‘too horrific’. Vincent Price in “House on Haunted Hill” with the ‘Emergo’ process that had a skeleton which rose from the screen and flew over the audience and the Coliseum became the home to horror films in Derby. Then there were films with titles like “Some Like It Nude” and “Garden of Eden” which would be sandwiched in between a week of “Tom Thumb” with Russ Tamblyn.

Sadly this all came to a sudden end when the Derby City Council put a Compulsory Purchase Notice on the building as it was in the way of road widening of Traffic Street for the new inner city ring road. The Coliseum closed on 12th August 1961 with Brian Reece in “Orders Are Orders”. For a few months it went over to the game of bingo while awaiting its fate.

When the ball and crane moved onto site, it seemed to take forever to demolish the building and it was a sorry site as passers-by watched the once magnificent building go down to rubble. In the end it really need never have happened as the road widening was only marginal and would not have affected the building at all! The site lay empty for many years until a small retail unit was errected on it. A newly built bar was built close to the original site of the cinema and this was named the Coliseum Pub. This has since been demolished and part of the Westfield Shopping Centre now stands on the site.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 3, 2005 at 11:50 am

A photograph of the Coliseum Cinema I took in its final week, prior to closing in August 1961
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woody
woody on July 23, 2009 at 6:58 am

this entire side of London Road has been cleared including the Coliseum Pub, and on the site has risen the vast Westfield Shopping Centre including the Showcase DeLux cinema which is ironically directly above where the Coliseum stood
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Kirst
Kirst on April 27, 2010 at 5:54 am

Hi,

Thanks very much for this info. – if anyone has any more, I’d like to hear it! Does anyone remember visiting this cinema in the 30s, and particularly, are there any photos of the building or staff at this time?

I’d especially like to hear from anyone who remembers Thomas Jarrett, who put in the equipment and was projectionist from this time until the cinema closed, or his wife Ivy Wood / Jarrett, who was usherette, and a projectionist during the war, or Marjory (‘Marny’) Cartwright, who was also an usherette, I believe.

Cheers, K

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