Embassy Cinema

17 Luton Road,
Harpenden, AL5 2UA

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The Austral Cinema was a purpose built cinema which was owned by an Australian called Captain Fredrick Webb. It was opened by Sir Halley Steward on 27th November 1935 with George Arliss in “Cardinal Richelieu”. Designed by an architectural firm from Doncaster, it had a seating capacity of 870. The balcony was not the traditional type found in most cinema buildings. It began some six foot above the auditorium floor and then rose gradually towards the back of the cinema in a stadium style. The entrance to it was gained from a staircase in the foyer.

The projectors in the 1950’s were Kalee 8’s with Ross carbon arcs and the sound system was BTH. Sometime in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s the projectors were changed to Kalee 21’s.

It was shortly after the second World War that it changed its name to the Embassy Cinema which it retained till it closed on the 30th October 1983. The last film to be shown was “Gone With The Wind” starring Clark Gable, Leslie Howard Olivier de Havilland and Vivian Leigh.

Later that same year it was demolished and the petrol station which had stood next to the cinema most of its life extended its forecourt over to the site.

Contributed by P. Horner

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

Ian on February 28, 2008 at 11:15 am

An old photo of the Embassy, Harpenden can be found here:–

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joesales on August 16, 2019 at 4:27 pm

My grandfather Harry Lazell worked at the Austral (as it was first called) when he married in 1936 – and later also worked as a projectionist at the Felixstowe Playhouse.

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