15 North Road,
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The Regal Cinema opened on North Road, Durham in March 1934. It later became the Essoldo, then changed to Classic Cinema which was bought by Cannon Cinemas and operated using the Cannon name until it’s closure in 1990.
Robins Cinemas reopened the cinema in 1991 and it continued to operate until 2003 when the cinema was forced to close to make way for a new bar.
The cinema originally had one screen and 1,090 seats. During the 1970’s under Cannon ownership it was converted to a twin screen cinema, then when Robins took over the upstairs screen was divided into two screens and the larger downstairs screen had a small 66 seat screen cut out of it, making it a four screen multiplex. The screen one seated 316, the upstairs screens each seated 96 and the smallest screen seated 66. Robins did have plans to create a screen five using the disused third floor of the building but as it would only seat around 50 people it was not financially viable.
Many of the cinema’s Art Deco style features remained intact, many of them hidden away in parts of the cinema which had been disused from wayback. In a bid to “modernise” the cinema in the 1970’s, many of the decorative features were painted out to make them blend in rather than stand out, on close inspection most of the detail was still visible.
Following a tough couple of years for Robins Cinemas Ltd., the chain went into receivership in 1997, closing all but three of it’s cinemas. Robins Bath, Camberley and Durham were bought back by the company’s owners as they proved the most profitable.
The company also owns the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s West End. Robins expansion thrived on the demise of Cannon Cinemas buying up ex-Cannon buildings across the country. All Robins buildings were ex-Cannon Cinemas. In 1998, plans were announced for a new multiplex in Durham, so Robins took the decision not to take out a long term lease. Nothing came of the multiplex plans but the building’s owner sought a new occupant, a Walkabout Australian Bar.
Following a court battle and several years of uncertainty, the cinema was finally forced to close in January 2003 to make way for the new bar, losing all it’s historic features and decor. In early-2010, it was fitted out to become a live music venue, with a seating capacity for 800.
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