7 Shaftesbury Avenue,
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Previously operated by: Classic Cinemas (UK)
Architects: Robert Atkinson
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Eros News Theatre, Eros Cartoon Theatre, Classic Cartoon Cinema
Located on the prime location corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly Circus in the Monaco Building, the Eros News Theatre opened on 20th August 1934. It was a tall narrow auditorium, located in a basement and had seating in a small circle which was one floor below street level and an orchestra stalls level another floor down. When entering the auditorium on both levels it was from behind the screen, and you had walk towards toward the rear wall to reach the better seats. The stairs down had decorative details in metalwork under the handrail depicting a man with a movie camera and the entire decorative treatment in an Art Deco style was worthy of a major Super Cinema.
The site was so tight on space that the projection booth was actually in the building next door (at street level, although when viewed from within the cinema it was at the rear of the circle) and could not be reached from the cinema.
It was operated by Capitol and Provincial News Theatres who also operated the news theatres at Waterloo and Victoria main line railway stations. This company later became the Classic Cinema chain and they operated the building throughout its life. When newsreel’s ceased to be produced in the late-1950’s it became the Classic Cartoon Cinema and entered the busiest (and most notorious) part of its cinematic life.
Busy due to its excellent location and the tiny paybox which sold sweets and cigarettes became the ‘local shop’ for passers-by. This brisk trade was also helped by the notorious reputation the cinema gained by becoming a favourite place for the local Piccadilly Circus ‘rent boys’ (male hustlers) who used the cinema as a pick-up and sex venue with their male clients. Of course being a cartoon cinema showing continuous one-hour long programmes from 10am until midnight (at cheap prices) mean’t multiple ticket sales/admissions were possible throughout each day, and sometimes this tiny 203 seater had more admissions and grossed the equivalent in money than its larger 2,000 seat mainstream neighbors screening regular films. ‘Action’ was confined to the rear stalls under the circle, so when families and children came in to see to cartoons, they were advised the ‘best seats were in the circle’ and were seated in that area, safely away from the ‘goings-on’ downstairs in the rear stalls. Eventually the local authority insisted on a clampdown and ordered the house lights being permanently on half dim and regular patrols were made of the auditorium. It all came to end in 1976 when the cartoon programmes ended in favour of feature films being shown, the cinema was re-named Eros Cinema and “Love in a Women’s Prison” plus “Sins Within the Family” began the ‘adult’ soft core porn era.
The exterior of the Eros Cinema is seen in the final sequence of the John Landis movie “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) and although there is also an interior sequence, that scene was filmed on a studio mock up set. The Eros Cinema closed for business on 14th February 1985 (Valentines Day get-it = Eros?) with the Bo Derek film “Bolero”.
The building was converted into a jewellers shop and in 2002, the interior was totally gutted and re-opened as a Gap clothing store. This was closed in 2020 and the space is vacant.
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