Regent Street Cinema
307 Regent Street,
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Located at the northern end of Regent Street in London’s West End. It was in a hall within the original 1881 built Polytechnic building on this site, where the Lumiere Brothers gave the first ever public film show of moving pictures in the United Kingdom on 21st February 1896.
The Polytechnic Building was later reconstructed in 1911 to the plans of Frank T. Verity (exterior) and within the new building was the Marlborough Hall, designed by architect George A. Mitchell. It opened on 11th March 1912 and was regulary used for film shows. Seating was provided on one level.
On 11th April 1923 it was re-fitted to seat 630 patrons in stalls and circle levels and re-opened as the Polytechnic Theatre. Four years later it underwent further re-construction to the plans of architect F.J. Wills, and it re-opened on 3rd March 1927 with the film "Chang", now with a seating capacity of 610.
In 1934 a Compton 2Manual/6Rank theatre organ was installed. It has the organ chamber at the rear of the stage and is still in the building and playable today.
The Polytechnic Theatre was closed in September 1940 due to war-time conditions but it re-opened in November 1940 under the new management of Clavering & Rose who added it to their small circuit of Cameo theatres. It first became the Cameo News Theatre, then from 15th November 1947 became the Cameo Continental Cinema, specialising in foreign films with some mainstream films too.
From 9th May 1952 it was re-named Cameo-Polytechnic and began to run up-market foreign films, a policy which continued for many years. During this period it was also referred to as the Cameo-Poly Cinema.
It was taken over by the Classic Cinemas chain in September 1967 and re-named Classic-Poly Cinema from 14th April 1972, but programming was becoming difficult for art house cinemas and it was closed on 10th February 1974. It was taken over by impressario Larry Parnes who re-opening it as a ‘live’ theatre known as the Regent Theatre. Premier productions were staged here of Lindsey Kemp in "Flowers" and a long run of the sex musical "Let My People Come".
It reverted back to full time cinema use as the Regent-Poly Cinema from 21st December 1978, was re-named Classic-Poly Cinema again from 11th January 1979 and closed on 12th April 1980 with a double bill of Walerian Borowczyk films “The Beast” and “Immoral Tales”.
The hall was taken back into use by the Polytechnic of Central London (today known as the University of Westminster) for use as a lecture hall and performance space. The canopy over the former cinema entrance has been removed and the foyer was used for storage. Entry to the auditorium is now gained through the main original Polytechnic entrance. The Compton organ was restored in 2007.
In 2010, work began on a restoration, with plans to re-open the building as a public cinema known as the Regent Street Cinema, screening independent films, and films made by the University students. In September 2012, Lottery funding was granted for a so-called ‘restoration’. If those plans were carried out it would have removed the 1920’s era Neo-Classical style decorations in the auditorium to re-create the original designs of the 1881 building. Thankfully, after many objections, those plans were thrown out and a full 6 million Pounds restoration of the building was carried out. In a compromise, the circle has been extended forward to the front of the stage to create a 187-seat stadium seated auditorium. The Compton organ has been retained. The former rear stalls seating area has been converted into a bar. In March 2015, the Regent Street Cinema was designated a Grade II Listed building.
The Regent Street Cinema re-opened 6th May 2015. The programming will be new independent films shown digitally, and classic films shown on 35mm & 16mm film prints. Wednesday matinees have been introduced where a Hollywood classic film is screened and the Compton organ is played by organist Peter Hammond at 13:40 prior to the film starting at 14:00.
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