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The State Theatre, Grays, Essex opened on 5th September 1938 with Dorothy Lamour and Jon Hall in “The Hurricane”. It was built and operated by the Frederick’s Electric Theatres circuit. The magnificent State Cinema remains a large and unaltered building with seating for 2,200 with 1,400 seats in the stalls and 800 seats in the circle. It is equipped with a Compton 3Manual/6Ranks organ with Melotone attached. The organ console has a ‘Rainbow’ illuminated surround and is on a lift, with the organ chamber located under the stage. The State Cinema has a fully equipped stage and there are 3 dressing rooms. There was a 50-seat restaurant in the circle foyer level. In 1988 the State Cinema was a location shoot for a sequence in the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” starring Bob Hoskins. At that time the Compton organ was still played every evening performance (except Sunday). The State Cinema was closed November 30, 1989 with Dennis Quaid in “Great Balls of Fire”.
In 1993 the foyer was used for a while as a nightclub named Charleston’s, and the auditorium saw use again on two occasions for concerts by David Essex and Suzi Quatro. The 1998 music video of “Deeper Underground” by Jamiroquai for “Gozilla:The Album” was filmed in the State Cinema.
In 2001 Morrisons Supermarket chain purchased the entire building and adjacent car park to use the car park as an extension to their own adjacent car park. In 2006 a property company purchased the building. It has been unused for over 30 years, and there have been several break-in’s. The Compton organ, projectors and all equipment remain in the building, but during one of the break-in’s organ pipes from the organ chamber under the stage were stolen by metal thieves.
The building is Grade II* Listed and is one of the most endangered buildings on the English Heritage ‘Buildings at Risk’ list.
In October 2015 it was announced the State Cinema had been purchased by the J.D. Weatherspoon chain of pubs and details of their plans were published in December 2017. The pub will have 475 seats, and a further 50 seats on a roof garden. The Compton organ console will be on view in the ‘raised’ position on the front of the stage and is to be restored. The circle foyer will be converted into toilets. After long delays, restoration work began in late-2019.
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