69 London Road,
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Architects: T.H. Thorpe
The building was originally the London Road Congregational Church which was built in 1842. The exterior looked like a Grecian Temple, it had four Corinthian columns set on huge plinths at their base, and they supported a pedimented cornice on top of the building. On the exterior side walls were five large windows on each side.
The building was converted into a cinema and it opened as the Coliseum Cinema on 4th April 1934 with Rod La Rocque & Leni Riefenstahl in “S.O.S. Iceberg”. Transformation by architect T.H. Thorpe of Derby included the addition of a very large canopy that extended from the pavement to the front entrance to the building which was set well back from the street. The side wall windows were bricked in and the interior was given a modern Art Deco style. Seating was provided in a well raked stalls area and a balcony was added to the building. A Compton theatre organ was delivered for installation in 1933, but due to financial difficulties during the conversion of the building, it was returned to the makers and never installed. The cinema did have a small cafe that was installed into the circle foyer.
The Coliseum Cinema remained an independently operated and owned cinema throughout its life and played many programmes that did not get the major circuit releases. Big films still played here on second run, like Walt Disney classics and the Midlands premier of “Quo Vadis” played here for three weeks. But it was the great programming in the mid to late-1950’s that I remember the most. The Coliseum Cinema was the first cinema in Derby to be equipped to play 3D films, it played “War of the Worlds” when the circuit houses refused to book the film because it was ‘too horrific’. Vincent Price in “House on Haunted Hill” with the ‘Emergo’ process that had a skeleton which rose from the screen and flew over the audience and the Coliseum Cinema became the home to horror films in Derby. Then there were films with titles like “Some Like It Nude” and “Garden of Eden” which would be sandwiched in between a week of “Tom Thumb” with Russ Tamblyn.
Sadly this all came to a sudden end when the Derby City Council put a Compulsory Purchase Notice on the building as it was in the way of road widening of Traffic Street for the new inner city ring road. The Coliseum Cinema closed on 12th August 1961 with Brian Reece in “Orders Are Orders”. For a few months it went over to the game of bingo while awaiting its fate.
When the wrecking ball and crane moved onto site, it seemed to take forever to demolish the building and it was a sorry site as passers-by watched the once magnificent building go down to rubble. In the end it really need never have happened as the road widening was only marginal and would not have affected the building at all! The site lay empty for many years until a small retail unit was errected on it. A newly built bar was built close to the original site of the cinema and this was named the Coliseum Pub. This has since been demolished and part of the Westfield Shopping Centre now stands on the site.
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