490 Commercial Road,
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The Troxy Cinema in Stepney, east London, was one of the UK’s largest cinemas with 3,520 seats. The building almost occupies an island site, the adjacent Brewery Tap public house occupies one corner of the site and is considerably older than the Troxy Cinema.
The Troxy Cinema opened on 11th September 1933 with Fay Wray in “King Kong” and Warren William in “The Mind Reader”. It was designed by George Coles for Hyams & Gale and came equipped with a very large stage, and a good number of dressing rooms. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 3Manual/10Ranks theatre organ that was opened by noted organist Bobby Pagan. There was also a cafe/restaruant provided for the convenience of patrons which was located on the circle foyer level.
The Troxy Cinema was taken over by Gaumont Super Cinemas from August 1935 and was taken fully into the ownership of Gaumont British Theatres from 28th February 1944.
Wartime damage and slum clearance removed a large part of the local population and the vast cinema closed on 19 November 1960 with Donald Sinden in “The Seige of Sydney Street” and Michael Wilding in “Hello London”.
The building remained empty and unused for almost three years until 1963, when surprisingly, a tenant was found and the London Opera Centre was created in the Troxy Cinema. Run by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Troxy Cinema was renamed the London Opera Centre and used for rehearsals on an extended stage which was an exact size of the Royal Opera House stage. Scenery construction took place in the rear stalls area under the circle and storage space was created in the rear of the circle. A small 500 seat area was created in the front of the circle for occasional performances. This conversion was carried out by George Coles and Company.
This lasted until around 1990 when the Opera House vacated the building. The Troxy Cinema was given a Grade II Listed building status by English Heritage in January 1991.
Following this desigated status, the Troxy Cinema was restored to its original volume as a Top Rank Bingo Club. Later a Mecca Bingo Club, bingo use ceased in May 2006 and the building was converted into a banqueting suite in early-2007. Despite a great deal of money spent converting and restoring the building, the venture was initially not as successful as the operators initially thought it would be.
By October 2008, the Troxy Stepney was being used as a concerts and live performance venue. In April 2009, the Troxy Stepney concerts were continuing, and it also added use as a nightclub, with a 2,500 capacity. It hosted the gay night ‘Salvation’ on Sundays.
In December 2009, it was announced by the Cinema Organ Society, that the Wurlitzer 4Manual/24Ranks organ, which had originally been installed in the Trocadero Cinema, Elephant and Castle in 1930, would find a new home at the Troxy Stepney, and installation began in 2010. The first organ concert on the restored instrument took place on 22nd August 2015 with organists Richard Hills & Robert Wolfe presenting “A Night of a Thousand Pipes”.
On 12-18th February 2012, the Troxy Stepney screened its first film after 52 years! The Noel Coward film “Brief Encounter” was screened with a programme including live music and an organist (although not playing the Wurlitzer as at that time it was still being installed.
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