historic Electric Cinema in Station Street is back in business after
being bought by local entrepreneur Tom Lawes.
has spent over £250,000 refurbishing and renovating the cinema
with help from volunteers, friends and family, restoring its 1930's
Art Deco look. Screen one will seat 100 people complete with luxury
sofas and waiter service, whilst screen two has been converted into
state of the art sound-mixing facility.
cinema, which dates back to 1909, is the oldest working cinema in
the country. It closed in December 2003, with former owner Steven
Metcalf describing it as "no longer economically viable."
the Christmas closure, the building was then put up for auction
in March 2004, failing to reach its reserve price.
new Electric Cinema frontage
only found out about the auction the day before" explains Lawes.
"It missed the reserve by £2000 and that gave me time
to get a business plan together and put in a bid.
got a Dubbing studio that has outgrown my house and I was looking
for somewhere to move. I'm from Birmingham and I knew all about
the Electric, so when the opportunity arose, I went for it."
the careful refurbishment, Lawes sought to return to the Art Deco
style that the cinema possessed when it was first rebuilt in 1936.
went to Central Library to get the 1936 plans. Then along with photos,
we tried to reproduce as much of it as possible. I also got the
1909 plans, but there's almost nothing of the original building
left apart from the coal shoot, boiler and a bit of flooring in
used other buildings as a reference point. The front doors have
been made in hardwood similar to an Art Deco bingo hall I know in
also went to look at the old Futurist cinema in John Bright Street
which is now a lap dancing club - something the Electric could have
become. It's a wonderful building with beveled glass in the windows
at the front which we sought to emulate."
The building is described by Lawes as being in a "terrible
state of disrepair" and "almost derelict", when he
bought it earlier this year.
derelict cinema building
it's been a case of repainting and replacing everything. We've put
a new floor in downstairs and tried to modernise things.
been helping with the building work, my clothes are covered in paint
and I haven't changed them for a week! It's been hard work but worth
it, the cinema looks stunning, there isn't anywhere else like it."
new Electric is marketing itself as a 'Luxury independent cinema',
but what does that mean?
not a fan of the term arthouse and I don't want to make the Electric
too snobbish. I want to include everyone in the city, put on local
premieres and make it the focus for the film making community in
the West Midlands.
plan to show a mixture of new films and independent cinema. We will
show quality intelligent films, whether they made in Hollywood or
screen itself is one of the few existing features that we have kept.
We've moved that forwards, incorporated a stage at the front and
applied for a music license."
owner of the Electric Steven Metcalf claimed that Birmingham simply
has too many screens and that the Electric could never be profitable.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Thomas Lawes disagrees.
complete rubbish. Other cities have successful independent cinemas,
so why not Birmingham?
of the successful independent cinemas that I've been to are the
Electric in Portobello and the Everyman in London and I see no reason
why we can't emulate them.
cinema was in such a bad state, it's no wonder that nobody wanted
old Electric ticket machine
historic venue, once reputedly a haunt of George Bernard Shaw, opened
in 1909 and has an interesting past. Originally called the Electric
Theatre, the cinema had a number of name changes over the years,
before reverting to its original title in October 1993.
the 20's, the cinema changed its name to the Select, showing a programme
of silent movies. In the 30's tastes altered and in 1936 the cinema
was bought by local entrepreneur Joseph Cohen. It was rebuilt and
reopened as the Tatler News Theatre, the second in the city.
World War Two, with television becoming increasingly popular, attendance
at news theatres dropped. In the 50's the cinema changed its focus
and evolved into the Jacey Cartoon theatre. This didn't last for
long and in the 60's it became the Jacey Film Theatre, mainly showing
a programme of art house and continental pictures.
old projector, formally in screen two
much of the 70's the cinema was a shadow of its former self, largely
showing pornographic films.
early 80's saw a revival, with the cinema taken over by Lord Grade's
Classic chain and split into two screens. This incarnation didn't
last for long and in the mid 80's it became the Tivoli, before being
taken over by Steven Metcalf in 1993 and reverting back to being
called the Electric.
The Electric closed on December 12th 2003, with the final film
shown being Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'. Initially the cinema
was due to shut its doors for three weeks for a Christmas break,
but it soon became clear that it was not to re-open, leaving staff
and regular customers angry at its sudden closure.
Electric Cinema re-opens on Friday 17 December 2004. The cinema
is open seven days a week and ticket prices are: Adults £6,
Concessions £4, Sofa Seats £10.
here to post your comments
It seem's as though this cinema has copied the electric on portobello rd which is actually the oldest purpose built cinema and is refurbished to a better standard lacking originality i would say the electric portobello wins hands down
I have fond memories of the Jacey Cartoon Cinema back inthe 50's The programmlasted for 2 hours continuous performance and you could go in and leave after you had seen the full programe
We as kids used to stop in hours especially if it was raining
Looney Tunes. Charley Chaplin, Larule and Hardy, and all the Walt Disney Cartoons where shown I used to lie down in the isle totally overcome with Laughter. I still love to watch Cartoons even though I am in my 50's and they where all in colour which made it all the more exciting
My first video was 2 hours of Tom And Jerry
I have such fond memories of the old Electric in the 1990s and was utterly devastated when it closed down! Yes, it was a bit grimy, the seats were uncomfortable and the sound quality wasn't the best, but it was this total lack of stark modernity that added to its quaint, simplistic charm. It was basically like stepping back in time and I loved it!
I live in London now but have still to find anything like it. I'm a little pessimistic about visiting the new-look Electric, but am really hoping it's good enough as B'ham really does lack any authentic, decent alternative venues.