146 High Street,
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Infenos Nightclub (Official)
Previously operated by: Gaumont-British-Picture Corp., Ltd., Provincial Cinematograph Theatres Ltd., Rank Organisation
Architects: John Stanley Beard
Previous Names: Majestic Theatre
Located in the inner south London district of Clapham. The Majestic Theatre opened on 27th August 1914 and actress Miss Irene Vanbrugh attended. It was built by a local company Majestic (Clapham) Ltd.
The prolific cinema architect John Stanley Beard was employed to designed the cinema and he did a splendid job, as usual. The front entrance was narrow and wedged between shops on both sides. The name ‘Majestic’ was above the doors in terra cotta tilework at the top of the building. The auditorium was set well back and ran parallel to the street behind the shops. Seating was in stalls and balcony levels and was tastefully decorated in white and gold colours in a typical Edwardian style. A feature was the dome in the ceiling which could be opened up between shows to clear the cigarette smoke. It had a small organ installed to augment the orchestra.
It was taken over by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT) in October 1928 and they were taken over by the Gaumont British Cinemas circuit in February 1929. By 1930 a Compton 3Manual/8Ranks organ had been installed which replaced the original small organ. The console was in a fixed position in the orchestra pit and the organ chambers were located under the stage. The organ was opened by Leslie James.
In October 1940, bombs fell close to the Majestic Theatre and caused it to be closed. It was patched up and allowed to re-open on 9th February 1941. It was re-named Gaumont Theatre on the 19th June 1950.
The Gaumont closed on 5th November 1960 with Lawrence Olivier in “The Entertainer”. The balcony was converted into a recording studio but the main theatre space lay closed and boarded up and in use as a store place. In 1969 it was cleaned up and re-opened as a bingo club, the balcony area was still in use as a recording studio.
Bingo use ceased in around 1983 and it was converted into Cinatra’s nightclub in 1985. The nightclub remains open today and is known as Infernos.
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Recent comments (view all 19 comments)
Hello Charlie. Sorry, but no, I don’t know of Arthur Lawrence. The Chaplin stunt was in the early 1920’s when he must have been one of the owners of the owning company; Majestic (Clapham) Ltd. Nice to hear that the story is still famous in your family.
Thanks for your speedy comment Ken! I think you’re right, he must have been an owner. Apparently the incident is mentioned in Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography, so I’m going to go and buy one and have a read.
How do you know so much about the cinema out of interest? I’m amazed it is now Infernos, until recently I spent most Saturday nights in there dancing! I couldn’t believe it when I found out it was the cinema I’d heard about.
You are welcome Charlie. I am a founder member of the Cinema Theatre Association http://www.cinema-theatre.org.uk/
I’ve just looked at the site Ken and it’s really interesting. I was reading about the archive, and would love to know if the Association has any info on this particular cinema, perhaps photos or documents from its early days?
The reason I’m so interested is because I’m a journalist and I’m currently writing a monthly column for a magazine called Family History Monthly, about my research into my family tree. Each month I focus on a different person in my family, so I’m currently researching Arthur Lawrence, born 1891, who is my great grandmother’s brother.
If you could tell me how I go about enquiring about the archive that would be fantastic, and I will of course mention you in my column! Also, just on the off chance, I noticed you do visits to cinemas, will the Majestic be visited anytime soon do you know?
Contact the CTA Archivist; Clive Polden and I am sure he will be able to advise what material we hold. Mention my name (Ken Roe), Cinema Treasures and your purpose etc.
Good Luck with your research.
Nothing in the immediate ‘pipeline’ planed for the CTA to visit the former Majestic.
That’s great, thanks for that, I’ll email Clive tomorrow, thanks Ken!
The recording studio referred to above was called Majestic Studios and it was still functioning in the early eighties when I visited it although I seem to remember it was situated on the balcony rather than the stage. I’m pretty sure the jazz rock group Shakatak recorded there. They are still going so I’m sure they could confirm this.
A very interesting site, but perhaps a bit more careful research or fact finding would not go a miss before information is posted on it! Sorry, I’m probably just moaning! To correct some of the multiple errors, firstly bingo didn’t cease in 1989 as is stated….the place had actually been converted into a second Cinatra’s nightclub (after the one at Croydon) four years earlier than that, in 1985. I beleive bingo ceased in either 1983 or 1984…I am still trying to track the date! The Majestic recording studio (where Adam Faith and David Bowie apparently both recorded albums) was not on the stage at all, it was upstairs at balcony level, whilst the rest of the auditorium was converted into the Majestic bingo club. Again, what is now clear, is whether this is when the building was horizontally divided by the insertion of a new front to rear floor…the original balcony on its own only seated some 350 (and was known to staff as the “jury box”), so on its own would appear to have been too small for a recording studio. The actress mentioned as attending the opening actually performed the opening ceremony (she was also an early film actress), whilst the original owner was Walter Hyman, who also owned the Majestic in Tottenham Court Road and was associated with the Grand Centrals circuit. I also beleive the organ console was actually on a lift, and not a fixed console.
If anyone is interested I was the sound engineer at Majestic recording studios which was a conversion in the balcony at the rear of the old Gaumont cinema …i worked there in 1970 and recorded many British hit records. I have many memories if anyone is interested.
Very interested in the previous comment by Delboy2kent who states that he worked as sound engineer in the Majestic Recording Studio occupying the former balcony/upper parts of the former Majestic Cinema in 1970. I have put together a detailed illustrated history of the Majestic/Gaumont for eventual inclusion in a Lambeth Cinemas book, but am still lacking accurate information on the recording studio/bingo hall conversion with which you can hopefully help. I wonder if you could contact me directly at some stage, on , as I would be very interested in discussing this and your time at the building with you. The bingo club appears to have opened first, in May 1969, whilst the recording studio seems to have followed a year later, in late 1970 according to another internet source and had its entrance from the side street. As regards Chaplin having had some earlier financial interest in the Majestic, there is possibly some truth in this yet to be fully investigated – I was informed by the current nightclub owners that the name Charles Chaplin appears on the title deeds for the property, although I’ve no further confirmation as to this. Would love to hear from you Delboy2kent re your memories of the studio if you could please get in touch.