Gatti's Cinema

214-216 Westminster Bridge Road,
London, SE1

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Built in 1862 by the Italian, Gatti family, it was initially a restaurant. Located on Westminster Bridge Road, just to the west of the railway bridge carrying trains from Waterloo Railway Station. It was re-built in 1883 to the plans of a Mr Bolton of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and opened as Gatti’s Palace of Varieties, seating 454 in the stalls and 236 in the balcony. There was standing room for 493. The stage was only 10 feet deep, and there were two dressing rooms, one for males, the other for female artistes. It was a music hall of the original type, with a chairman announcing each act. Many famous stars of the era appeared at Gatti’s Palace of Varieties including; Dan Leno, Marie Lloyd, George Leybourne, Little Titch, and the first London appearance of Scottish comedian Harry Lauder.

Gatti’s Palace of Varieties was so successful that Carlo Gatti open another Gatti’s Palace of Varieties in the arches under the newly built Charing Cross Railway Station in 1867. The Gatti’s Palace of Varieties in Lambeth was often then refered to as ‘Gatti’s-in-the-Road’ or ‘Gatti’s-over-the-Water’ (as it was across the River Thames from the Charing Cross theatre).

The exterior of the building was four storeys high, containing windows on each storey, and the name ‘Gatti’s’ was centrally placed in the stonework at the top. The facade was concave, to match the curve in Westminster Bridge Road at that point, and the entrance was via a single doorway.

In December 1898, the Edison-Thomas Life Size Pictures debuted on the programme, and in 1904, Mutograph films were being screened. It closed as a variety theatre in 1924, and was converted into full time cinema use.

Gatti’s Cinema was damaged by German bombs in 1940, and it never re-opened. Its remains were finally demolished in 1950, to make way for a new road extension of York Road.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 3, 2009 at 3:14 pm

More history and a drawing of Gatti’s Palace of Varieties here:
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