Kinetoscope

41 Robertson Street,
Hastings, TN34 1HL

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Kinetoscope

The shortest lived of almost 70 cinemas that have opened in the borough of Hastings and St Leonards enjoyed a longer life presenting films in a more primitive form.

On Monday 19th January 1895, The Kinetoscope opened in the basement of 41 Robertson Street, which is situated in Hastings Town Centre. The entrance was in a passageway which runs behind a row of shops. It was possibly the earliest example of the Kinetoscope in the UK, outside of London.

The Edison Kinetoscope was a large wooden box, similar to a “What the Butler Saw” machine, with the exception that it ran off electricity and used 35mm film instead of photographs.

During the first afternoon, the Hastings & St Leonards Observer visited and reported in the next edition; “Those who would see the latest wonderful production of electricity should pay a visit to number 41 Robertson Street, and patronise The Kinetoscope, the invention of that colossal genious, T.A. Edison.”

The report continued “The machine is indeed a perfect marvel. Looking through the wonderful machine, we see a production of life in action, not in repose, or posing, but the actual doings, for instance, in a barbers shop or a bar, or the graceful evolutions of a dancer. These pictures are the result of a contrivance in which photography and electricity are combined.”

“We saw a dancer performing the butterfly dance, someone going through his exercises, and an incident in a bar. In this last we saw a man come in and order a drink. He was followed by others, and summarily ejected from the premises, every detail being complete. There are also other pictures”

This venture appears to be the longest lived full time Kinetoscope in the country, lasting just over three years and in turn it was known as The Kinetoscope, Edison Kinetoscope, Kinetoscope Parlour, before reverting back to the Kinetoscope.

When both of the boroughs piers started showing film programmes in 1898, there was no market for Kinetoscope and it closed for film in this format. It was converted into a proper cinema, which could seat 120. It still used the it’s original name of Kinetoscope but would advertise “The Kinetoscope – Bioscope Presentation”. It didn’t last many weeks and would never show another film.

For a while during the 1990’s it was the studio’s for the Hastings Rock radio station and I remember presenting my then graveyard show well from there. Today it appears to be just used for storage.

The row if shops that are above this fascinating basement venue in 2016, include a cafe, Phoenix Taxi’s and a shop called Substance.

Contributed by Nick Prince
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