93-107 Shaftesbury Avenue,
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Built on the site of the Shaftesbury Pavilion/Gaumont News Theatre which was destroyed by German bombs during World War II. This cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue at the corner of Frith Street in London’s West End opened in February 1959 as the Columbia Cinema. It was leased to Columbia Pictures as an outlet for that studio’s films, although the opening film was “Gigi”– an MGM film, which played here for 7-months before transferring to the MGM-Loew’s Ritz Cinema on Leicester Square. It was followed by the Columbia film “Anatomy of a Murder”. Another big hit was Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl”.
The Columbia Cinema was sunk into the basement of a large office block and had 734 seats, and a huge curved screen for 70mm and Todd-AO presentations. The auditorium seating was on a single floor and there were (strangely) supporting pillars – although these were down the sides of the auditorium and did not interfere with sightlines. There were two sets of curtains in front of the screen. At ground level and basement level there are very generous sized foyers. The British Premiere of “King Rat” was held at the Columbia Cinema on 1st December 1965.
Classic Cinemas chain took over the lease and after some improvements and the installation of Dolby stereo it reopened as the Classic Cinema on 19th August 1982 with “The Last American Virgin”. Classic/Cannon could not make the cinema pay, and it became the Premiere Cinema with an art-house policy. This was also short lived and eventually it was operated by Curzon who again renamed it Curzon West End and they made a big success of the cinema.
Eventually in 1998 it was deemed too large and closed on 11th June 1998 with “Live Flesh”. It was sub-divided into a three screen complex. This was expensively done, to the plans of architectural firm Panter Hudspith Architects and the resulting cinemas – screen 1 with 249 seats uses the original proscenium, with screen 2 (120 seats) and screen 3 (133 seats) side-by side in the rear of the former auditorium. It re-opened as the Curzon Soho on 16th October 1998. It remains a popular West End cinema and continues to present a wide choice of Independent films. The street entrance now also serves as a café, while the main foyer downstairs also serves as a licence bar.
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