161-169 Essex Road,
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The Carlton Cinema opened on 1st September 1930 with Harold Lloyd in “Welcome Danger”. It was built as a cine-variety theatre for independent exhibitors C & R Theatres.
Architect George Coles excelled himself with this lavish building which has a magnificent Egyptian style facade dressed in multi-coloured Hathernware tiles. Inside the building the style changes to an Empire style with Egyptian touches in the foyer and then into the auditorium which is a delightful French Renaissance style. Seating was provided in stalls and balcony levels and there was a cafe for patrons. It was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/6Rank theatre organ that was opened by Phil French. Full stage facilities were included on the 26 feet deep stage and there were four dressing rooms.
The Carlton Cinema was taken over by Associated British Cinemas Ltd.(ABC) from February 1935. It was re-named ABC in 1962. It closed on 5th August 1972 with Reg Varney in “Mutiny on the Buses”. The building was converted into a bingo hall which continued for almost 35 years as the Mecca Bingo Club, until closing in March 2007.
It was purchased by a church, and there are plans to create two small spaces beneath the circle, while the original circle and front stalls will be used for church services on Sundays. The church also plans to reopen as a cinema, using the circle seating areaand converting the former cafe area into a second screen.
It is a Grade II* Listed building.
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