364 Cowbridge Road West,
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Previously operated by: Splott (Cardiff) Cinema Co. Ltd.
Architects: J.D. Wride
Firms: J.H. Phillips & Wride
Styles: Art Deco
In the late-1930’s the Splott Circuit planned to build two new cinemas at the western and eastern edges of Cardiff to cater for the new housing being built there. The work was divided between two of the local architects with W.S. Wort working on the County Cinema and J.D. Wride of J.H. Phillips and Wride entrusted with work on the Ely site.
The first set of plans show a different site was originally chosen with the name Apollo. Following a decision to simplify the design of both new cinemas,to be faced with brick instead of more expensive materials, new plans were submitted and construction began in 1939.
On the new site on Cowbridge Road West, a cinema later named Avenue Cinema, with a brick tower at the entrance, was constructed. At the same time Mr. Wort’s design for the County Cinema in brick but similar in style to his earlier concrete-built Monico Cinema was erected and opened in late-1939.
The grand opening of the Avenue Cinema took place on 12th February 1940 with Deanna Durbin in “Three Smart Girls Grow Up”, shown for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The interior decoration was “peach pink”, and the proscenium was modified to accomodate a CinemaScope installation in 1955 and decorative neon lighting was fitted outside in the same year.
The first television transmitter serving Cardiff had opened less than two miles away, and when another opened in 1958 a number of cinemas were threatened as audience numbers fell.
The Ely area was also served by the larger Regent Cinema under the same ownership and although only twenty years old, it was the Avenue Cinema which closed on June 17th 1960.
The building has survived, first as a car dealership and offices, and in recent times films have returned, though on video and DVD at a Blockbuster store.
Exterior cladding hides much of the original design and the roof supports a number of cellphone antennae. It is now a Phoenix Fitness Gymnasium
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