Elite Super Cinema

Warrior Square & Warrior Gardens,
St. Leonards-on-sea, TN37 6QH

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Elite Super Cinema, Royal Terrace, St Leonards on sea

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Located in St. Leonards-On-Sea close to Hastings, East Sussex. It opened on 13th October 1879 as the Warrior Square Opera House & Concert Hall. Seating was provided for 1,000, all on a single level. The building boasted an organ which had originally been installed in Lichfield Cathedral, Staffordshire. It later became the Royal Concert Hall.

It became a roller skating rink around 1900, then was used for bicycle riding. On 13th March 1901, Winston Churchill gave a lecture in the hall. The Royal Concert Hall was closed in 1918 and it remained derelict until 1921. A circle was constructed in the building and it opened as the Elite Picture Theatre on 14th March 1921 with “The Auction Mart”, now with a seating capacity for 1,600.

It was equipped with a Western Electric(WE) sound system in February 1930 and was renamed Elite ‘All Talkie’. It was then taken over by the Union Cinemas chain and was given a new fa├žade in 1932. When Union Cinemas were taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC ) in October 1937, the Elite Cinema was not part of the deal.

Taken over by an independent company the front of the cinema was badly damaged by a German bomb on 26th September 1940, and the adjacent church was destroyed in the same bombing raid. The Elite Cinema was repaired and re-opened on Easter Monday 1941 with “Sullivan’s Travels”. Six months later the Elite Cinema was half destroyed by another German bombing raid in October 1942. The building them remained closed until after the end of World War II.

Repairs were carried out and the new Elite Super Cinema was set to re-open on Monday 23rd June 1947 with “Wild Harvest”. Sadly on the day of its reopening, the cinema was totally destroyed by a fire. The blaze was watched by a crowd of 15,000 people as at 12:10pm flames leaped 50 feet high. Ironically, the following weeks advertised programme was to have been the feature film “Blaze of Noon”.

The site remained empty until April 1986 when a block of flats for the elderly named Royal Terrace was opened.

Contributed by Ken Roe
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