Essoldo Bethnal Green
283 Bethnal Green Road,
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Opened as Smart’s Picture House in April 1913, it was operated by George Smart, a leading film exhibitor in the east end of London. The original architect was Phillip Tree.
The exterior was dominated by a large hexagonal tower feature above the rather low entrance facade. Inside the auditorium, the seating for 865 was provided on one floor with no balcony. The prosceninum opening was 24 feet wide and there was a small stage 7 feet 6 inches deep. Also provided were two dressing rooms.
In 1938 it was closed for a total re-modeling by architect George Coles. The tower and frontage were demolished and a new streamlined Art Deco facade erected in its place. This was dominated by a slender fin tower feature which was set above the entrance in a curved recess. The auditorium was also given a make-over in an Art Deco style that had murals on the side walls and a stepped ceiling, the centre of which had a long light fitting. The cinema re-opened in late-1938 as the Rex Cinema with Dorothy Lamour in “St. Louis Blues” and Glenda Farrell in “Exposed” being one of the early programmes.
From 26th December 1949 the Rex Cinema was taken over by the Essoldo chain of cinemas and re-named Essoldo. The Essoldo Cinema closed on 5th August 1964 (some sources give 5th September) with Christopher Lee in “Devil Ship Pirates” and Tony Russell in “The Invincible Seven” (Invincibili sette, Gli). It was converted into a bingo club and remained in this use until around 1990.
Since then the building has been taken over by a wholesale retailer of soft furnishing trimmings (Frankle Trimmings) and used as a storeroom and retail (trade only) outlet. In 2005 the entire facade was renovated and looks particulary smart. Frankel Trimmings vacated the building around 2015 and the interior has been gutted. In October 2017 plans were announced to convert the building into a 130-room boutique hotel named The Rex which will also contain a singe screen cinema and a roof-top bar. Completion is set for January 2020.
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