160 Victoria Street,
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The Metropole Kinema was the first large cinema in the Victoria district of central London and opened on 27th December 1929 with Stanley Holloway in “The Co-Optimists” and Jameson Thomas in “Hate Ship”, plus Jack Hylton’s band on stage.
Built for the brothers Syd & Phil Hyams, it was designed by noted cinema architect George Coles, and had a marble and onyx facade, with the central window glazed in blue and amber glass. This window allowed light into the café/restaurant which was located above the entrance. The ceiling of the foyer also had a glazed secion containing coloured glass. The auditorium ran parallel to Victoria Street behind other buildings, with one side wall along Arlington Road which provided exits. Decoration was in a Spanish Renaissance style with a very ornate proscenium (37 feet wide) and equally ornate dummy boxes, one either side of the stage. Seating was provided for around 2,000 in stalls and circle levels. The stage was 25 feet deep and there were six dressing rooms. The Metropole Kinema was initially equipped with a Standaart organ. This was replaced in July 1935 by a Wurlitzer 3Manual/11Ranks organ which had been installed in 1928 in the Fulton Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio. Initially the Metropole Kinema was a 1st run neighborhood (off West End) cinema. In 1943, the Hyams brothers sold out to Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain, although the Metropole Cinema was never renamed Odeon. It played 1st run Odeon circuit releases, prior to their North London and subsequent South London releases. The auditorium (and its Wurlitzer organ) were featured in a scene in the classic 1945 David Lean film “Brief Encounter”.
Late in 1959 Todd-AO was installed here on a new screen in front of the proscenium, concealing the boxes, and 500 seats were lost, giving a new seating capacity of 1,394. “Oklahoma” was the first film to be presented here in that process, opening on 26th December 1959 and was also the start of ‘Roadshow’ presentations here. It was followed on 26th March 1960 with Frank Sinatra in “Can Can”. It was followed by a long run of Charlton Heston in “El Cid”, then on 8th December 1960 a European Premiere run of “Spartacus” starring Kirk Douglas.
Eventually ‘Roadshow’ product dried up and the Metrople Cinema began playing 1st run, but inferior films from independent distributers, often concurrent with the Astoria Cinema, Charing Cross Road. The Metropole Cinema was closed by the Rank Organisation on 11th June 1977 with Bette Davis in “Burnt Offerings”, and was converted into the Metropole Laser Theatre hosting a show named “Lovelight” which operated from 21st June 1977 until 26th September 1977. It then stood unused for over a year before it was leased by Virgin Records and re-opened as a concert hall called ‘The Venue’ which was operated from 1st December 1978 to August 1984.
After this the auditorium was demolished (along with the auditorium of the (nearby/almost adjacent former Cameo/Classic Victoria). The elaborate foyer of the Metropole Cinema was restored and opened as a restaurant which after several operators it was last operated as a pizzaria named ASK. It was announced in September 2010, that the block which included the remaining sections of the Metropole Cinema, and its neighbour the Cameo Victoria Cinema would be demolished to allow an extension to the Victoria Underground Station, providing a new entance/exit on the north side of Victoria Street.
The entire block was demolished in March 2013.
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