Astoria Theatre

10-17 Gloucester Place,
Brighton, BN1

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Astoria Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Located close to the famous Brighton Pavilion, this was a construction for a local independent consortium headed by E.E. Lyons, who built several Astoria Theatres in southeast England seaside towns. The Astoria Theatre opened on 21st December 1933 with Charles Laughton in “The Private Life of Henry VIII”.

It had full stage facilities and a spectacular Art Deco style interior decoration scheme. A Compton 3 Manual/8Ranks organ with illuminated console was installed and opened by organist Guy Hindell. The Astoria Theatre was taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) chain in February 1935.

The stage was infrequently used for live shows up until 1958 when the theatre closed for renovations which installed a vast 70mm screen in front of the old proscenium, removed the organ, and curtained the impressive auditorium.

The balcony steppings were altered and a new projection suite constructed at (and into) the rear balcony.

Long runs of such films as “Earthquake” ensued and the cinema continued successfully until just after the other ABC house in town was quadrupled in 1976. The Astoria Theatre closed on 7th May 1977 with Barbara Streisand in “A Star Is Born”. It became a Coral Bingo Club. This lasted until approximately 1996, when it was operated by Gala Bingo Clubs, after which the Astoria Theatre has stood empty and unused.

In 2001, it was bought for around 1 million Pounds, with plans to be restored (not known if to original design) and reopened as a live (mainly concert) venue. However, these have stalled, and the building was sold again for 4 million Pounds. It still sits empty and unused into early-2013, when plans were approved to demolish and build an office block.

The Astoria Theatre is a Grade II Listed building.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

brighton84 on August 14, 2006 at 12:26 pm

Letter: The Astoria will not be lost to dereliction
From the archive, first published Tuesday 11th Apr 2006.

In response to several recent letters concerning the Astoria Cinema on the Old Steine, we do indeed own the building and, despite being hard at work putting a new show together for the Brighton Festival, behind the scenes we are still working on our Astoria plans.

The scaffolding at the front was put there both to protect the building frontage (which is listed, but was deteriorating) and the public, from falling masonry.

No doubt the unsightliness of this is bringing the building to everyone’s attention but, prior to our ownership, it suffered many years of unnoticed neglect.

Before anything else can be done with the Astoria, it needs a new roof and the fascia needs to be renovated and restored.

This vastly increases the expense of restoration and, since there are no grants or lottery funds available to us, we are actively seeking private partners and sponsorship.

In the meantime, while the scaffolding may be an eyesore, behind it lies the potential of a wonderful performance/cinema space.

So, we apologise for the inconvenience, but we are working with architects on new internal designs, making feasibility studies and seeking partners and sponsors to resurrect the Astoria.

Many wonderful theatres and cinemas have been lost to Brighton and to redevelopment, most recently the Essoldo on North Street.

We do not intend to let the Astoria fall into the dereliction/redevelopment trap and will be revealing our plans for the Astoria in the near future.

-Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, Yes/No Productions, Ship Street, Brighton

This letter was taken from the Brighton Argus. Yes/No Productions are the management organisation for the group known as ‘Stomp’. Should there be any further developments, I’ll post it here.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 25, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Here is link to a page showing a vintage photograph and a potted history:

Davell on June 1, 2008 at 9:30 am

In 1963 I went on holiday to Brighton with my father. We went to a number of cinemas including the Astoria, which was showing Mutiny on the Bounty in 70mm. The sound from the six tracks was fantastic and was as good, in my opinion as any modern sound system such as Dolby stereo or DTS.Projecting the 70mm images was the popular Philips DP70s. Before 70mm, Kalee elevens put the pictures on the screen. One of the projectionists was a Mr Ted Jempson, who sadly is no longer with us.The picture and sound at the Astora certainly made an impression on me.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 27, 2008 at 4:11 pm

A vintage view of the auditorium in 1958, just prior to conversion into a 70mm/Todd A-O Roadshow cinema:
View link

HowardBHaas on July 15, 2011 at 11:58 am

Threatened with demolition:

Jeffrey Morris
Jeffrey Morris on October 26, 2011 at 5:51 am

Following years of neglect it now appears that the former Astoria cinema will be demolished having received permission to do so by the local authority.

Although this will most likely be challenged it is unlikely to reverse the situation. A venue of this nature in a city such as Brighton ought to be a viable business opportunity offering a multipurpose venue that can be financially rewarding. However, with no business plan or vision for alternative use and restoration over a decade or so it is unlikely that the local authority or those listening to any appeal will have a change of thought. It is Very sad indeed.

cinevariety on March 1, 2013 at 1:36 am

Alas for all the hard work by so many this lovely cinema is no more.My first visit was in 1966 when the cinema had the first provincial run of Dr Zhivago.In 1968 a 70mm showing of 2001:A Space Odyssey was a wow. Gone With the wind had several showings here including as late as late as 1975 for a months run. Brighton has become infamous for being the place that knocks down it’s cinemas or leaves the buildings both cinemas and theatres to rot (Hippodrome Theatre Frank Matcham)until they have to be pulled down.That’s one reason i moved last year 2012 to Eastbourne where they value there four theatres and original town cinema, the Curzon. I have a full history of the Astoria plus a rare film poster from 1935 which hangs on my flat wall.Much missed.

RHScottSpencer on March 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

I worked at his theatre/cinema as a relief projectionist for EMI. I am sorry to hear that it is due to be demolished. A lot of money when into trying to save the building. But it was never going to be saved the land it stands on is worth far to much, if used for something else.

ODEONesque on July 25, 2013 at 1:00 pm

From what Ive read on urbex sites this cinema has been totally trashed inside and thats all on the side of the “big hammer merchants” with the smell of banknotes in their nostrils. Shame.

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