Pleasure Gardens Theatre

Bouverie Road W. and Trinity Road,
Folkestone, CT20 2RL

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Located in Folkstone, Kent in the Folkstone Pleasure Gardens. The National Art Treasures building was built in 1886. With its glass roof, it had a similar style to the Crystal Palace in London. In 1888 it was converted into an exhibition hall, known as the Exhibition Palace Theatre. On 4th April 1896 it was remodelled and was re-named Pleasures Garden Theatre, opening with a production of “A Trip to Chicago”, staged by Walter Sealby’s Company.

In June 1896 it became the first venue is Kent to screen moving pictures. In 1913 the foyer was enlarged enabling it to be used as a concert hall. The Pleasure Gardens Theatre became home to pantomimes, opera performances and touring productions from London. In August 1929 it was taken over by Walter Bentley. The Union Cinemas chain took over around November 1935, but live theatre continued to be programmed. In October 1937 Union Cinemas were taken over by the Associated British Cinemas (ABC) chain, and they continued the live theatre use.

In October 1956 the theatre was closed for structural alterations which included the removal of pillars and the lowering of the ceiling in the foyer/concert hall. It was equipped with the latest film projection equipment. It opened as a cinema on 2nd November 1956 and programmed foreign art house films. It was never a great success as an art house cinema, one reason being the huge 1,500 seating capacity. It was closed in May 1964.

It was converted into a bingo club which only lasted a short while and later in 1964 it was demolished. A large car park and office block was built on the site which is used by Kent police.

Contributed by Ken Roe
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