Granada cinema in Hove, East Sussex
Welcome to the page dedicated to the now disused former Granada cinema in Hove, East Sussex, to the west of Brighton. This art deco Cinema was opened in the 1930s as a Granada Theatre, and showed films up until 1974, when it was acquired by Ladbrokes and re-opened as a bingo hall.
The old cinema was thus granted a new lease of life, and stayed open as a bingo club, latterly run by the Gala Group, until it was closed in the summer of 2003. This website includes both a history of the building, located at 193 Portland Road, and a large number of photographs taken around the time of closure. Parts of the cinema had by then changed out of all recognition, while other areas, namely the circle seems to almost have been trapped in a thirties time warp.
The History of the Granada in Hove stretches out over seventy years, and while researching it, some surprising information was thrown my way! Perhaps most interestingly of all, the cinema was never actually part of the Granada chain – indeed, it was not until 1985 that the Granada group actually had anything to do with the place. But the two were connected.
To understand this odd state of affairs, we have to go back to January 1930, and the opening of the Granada Cinema in Dover, Kent.
This cinema was intended to be the first of a chain of Granada Cinemas, owned by the Bernstein brothers, Sidney and Cecil, who had inherited an entertainment empire of cinemas and theatres from their father Alexander. These businesses had been sold off in 1928, and the brothers put plans in action to start a cinema circuit of their own, which was to be called Granada.
Dover was the first of the chain to be opened, followed by Walthamstow in September 1930, but the levels of profit were less than expected, and just over a year later, in April 1931, the Granada Dover was leased out to an independent film exhibitor, Nathan N. Lee, who formed a new company, Granada (Dover) Ltd. to run it.
Granada (Dover) then went on to open another cinema, in Hove, which opened to the public in July 1933, and which was naturally also named the Granada. These cinemas then ran independently from the Granada chain, until the freeholds for both were purchased by the ABC cinema chain in the middle of 1935. Curiously though, neither cinema was given the ABC name at the time; this did not happen until many years later, in May 1965.
It seems bizarre that a major cinema chain could run two of its premises using the name of a competitor for so many years, but this was indeed the case at Dover and Hove. Like the ‘proper’ Granada sites, the Hove cinema was equipped for stage performances as well as film shows, with five dressing rooms and a deep stage. Initially it was fitted with an elaborate Compton electric organ, but after the two ersatz Granada cinemas were sold to the ABC circuit in June 1935, it was poached by the chain for a new cinema in south London in 1936, and has today passed into preservation.
The Hove cinema was the first of the two to close, in 1974, despite protests from local residents. In retrospect however, it does seem remarkable that a cinema in such a suburban location could have lasted for so long; after all, the huge flagship ‘proper’ Granada cinema in Tooting had closed its doors to the public the year previous.
The cinema had received a considerable amount of attention from its owners throughout the 1960s, receiving modernisation in both 1962 and 1970, and after closure in the June of 1974, the period of inactivity at the Granada Hove did not last for long, and the building was reopened as a Lucky Seven bingo hall by Ladbrokes shortly afterwards.
At the start of the 1980s, the interior of the building was extensively modified; a suspended ceiling was installed over the stalls, effectively blocking off the circle, and the floor of the stalls was also levelled. By 1983, the building was owned by a bingo company called Lion Leisure, which was subject to a buyout by Granada in 1985 – belatedly making it a proper part of the sprawling Granada empire. This situation only lasted for six years however, as the Granada group sold all of its bingo halls to Bass Brewers in 1991, which were subjected to a management buyout another six years later.
The future of the Bingo Hall in Hove seemed secure, despite the neglect that parts of the building had been subjected to, as the Gala Group owned the freehold of the site, and the club proved to be profitable. But after an offer was made for the site by a company specialising in retirement flats in early 2003, the Gala Group decided to close the club (although staff there had been reassured to the contrary in June of that year) in an effort to secure planning permission for demolition of the building.
This application was however unsuccessful, and in 2005 it currently sits empty and boarded up – the only use seen since closure being an impromptu takeover by squatters in 2004.
Planning permission for demolition of the building in order to create affordable housing was recently reapplied for, and as the building has stood empty for nearly two years, deteriorating all the while, it seems likely that permission to demolish will be granted.
When built, the building was finished in unclad red brick, and was not whitewashed over until after conversion into a bingo hall circa 1975. During World War Two, and anti-aircraft gun was installed on the roof, but never fired, in case the force of the shot caused it to fall through…
Looking towards the club from the east end of Portland Road. It’s clear in this picture how much the club stands out on this road, which mostly comprises of restaurants and small shops with flats above, built in a vaguely Arts and Crafts style.
Closer in this time, and this shot reveals the neglected state of the exterior-note the bush growing out of the wall in the centre right of the picture, plus the tide mark where the repainting stopped when it was last done ten years ago. The blocked up door in the alcove in the centre of the building led to a sun terrace originally, the bricking up of which made the rooms on the first floor nearest the camera inaccessible.
Looking over the car park to the large back wall at the stage end. The projecting structure in the middle used to be the boiler room area, and the replacement gas-fired heating unit (which was notoriously useless) was housed to the right of the building. Did the circular recess in the middle top of the wall house a clock at one point?
Taken three days after closure, the club has already been boarded up. on the top left of the building, the two skylights visible on the roof provided ventilation for the projection room, apparently because of fumes from the carbon-rod projection equipment. Incidentally, this room was totally rebuilt as offices after closure as a cinema.
Looking directly up from the front doors, up to the bell tower. The old photo on the splash page seems to show some sort of statues on either side of the tower-what were they?
The Foyer Area
The entrance of the building was originally equipped with revolving doors, which stayed in situ until the remodelling of the interior of the building in 1992. most of the original features of this area were obliterated by the time of closure, although some original features did remain.
This picture, taken three days after closure, shows the foyer from the entrance desk. Just visible at the bottom is where the original ticket machine had been re-sited, which has been taken by Hove museum. The stairs in the centre, hidden by a false wall, lead to the circle foyer, while the entrance doors to the main hall are just visible on the right of the picture.
This shot looks from the opposite direction of the above picture, towards the customer entrance to the building. The membership desk (and cubby hole) is to the left. The location of the revolving doors can clearly be seen.
A closer look at where the revolving doors were sited. The pole in the foreground appears to have been associated with them, although moved a couple of feet into the foyer. Former members of staff had been known to dance wrapped round it to entice passing motorists…
One of the few original features left in the foyer area was this safe, built into the wall of the cubby hole by the front desk, which would have been where the box office was in cinema days. It was jammed shut for as long as I knew it… wonder if anything had been left inside?
The Stalls/Main Hall
This page features the extensively modified stalls area, fitted with a levelled floor and false ceiling around 1983. The plaster mouldings towards the top of this false ceiling seem to be the principal original features in this area, although many of the modifications were carried out in a style sympathetic to the architecture of the building.
Taken from the foyer doors and looking towards the screen area. on the left is the book sales counter, while the Random Number Generator (RNG) can be seen to the right, on the stage. The pink pillars nearest the back indicate the original location of the stage edge.
Taken from a position to the left of the above shot, and looking diagonally across the hall. Note the stairs down to the ladies toilets on the left, which may indicate the original floor height. The prize bingo unit is to the right, and the folk you can see in the picture are (L-R) Mrs. Peacock (a regular), Brenda (A.K.A. the “Door Rottweiler”), Bruce and Dawn, our main-stage caller.
Under the circle area in the stalls were two air vents, one of which can be seen in the top centre of the previous picture. There was an identical set in the circle itself too.
Looking in the opposite direction, from the stage, towards the foyer doors. The Bar and prize bingo unit are to the left, and the diner is off to the right. the second ‘step’ in the ceiling is actually the edge of the circle, which has been blocked off from the public since the 1983 refurbishment.
Taken from where the caller stood at the RNG (a portion of which is visible bottom right. Diner in the far corner.
Stood in a similar position, except this is on the final night of trading. The busiest night i’d ever seen, taking 375 customers, twice what we usually did!
A closer view of the plasterwork that ran round the stalls. The walls also featured cherub statues at some point, which may have been on top of those pink pillars. incidentally, the round bits of plasterwork were painted the same blue as the walls… That’s two and a bit years of nicotine staining for you!
The Circle Stairs and Foyer
The circle area of the building has been off-limits to customers since the installation of the false ceiling in the early 80s. this does however mean that many of the original fittings from this part of the building had survived to be recorded for posterity.
Looking down the stairs seen in the first picture on the foyer page. Halfway up, these stairs turn 180 degrees, and continue up to the circle foyer, as seen below.
At the top of the stairs. The octagonal moulding on the ceiling would originally have been backlit all the way round, with a more elaborate light fitting than this one in the middle. The stairs to the right led up to the projection room and the top of the circle itself.
In the circle foyer, but taken from the opposite side to the other photo. Although covered over with cheap blue carpet, this area still had its original tilework, although covered in a particularly viscous glue! The stairs are the other set to the top of the circle, while the passageway to the right led to the lower level of it.
The floor of the passageway mentioned above. I remember being so pleased when I first saw these tiles a couple of years ago, despite their tatty state. Such a shame such a nice feature was covered up for so long.
Facing the stairs above ran a narrow passage past the Treasury, through the computer room and staff changing area to the blocked-off sun terrace and the bottom of the circle. This photo shows some of the (asbestos-based, apparently) mouldings that decorated this corridor.
At the top of the stairs featured in the second photo on this page. The projection room was off to the left.
The circle area of the building has been off-limits to customers since the installation of the false ceiling in the early 80s. this does however mean that many of the original fittings from this part of the building had survived to be recorded for posterity.Unfortunately, the lighting doesn’t work up there, hence the graininess of some of the images on this page, but nevertheless, they provide fascinating contrast with the images of the main hall.
There are several light fittings like this in the circle-not sure if they’re original or not though. Note the crumbling plasterwork in this part of the club.
At the top of the central aisle in the circle are the crudely blocked off projector windows. Not sure why there are six, although i’m sure someone could tell me! note the colours of paint too: Green, red, dark beige, brown and light beige, topped off with a purple ceiling. Very 1974…
Further down the central staircase, looking towards the projectors. The cable was either for the lighting in the main hall, or the CCTV system, installed only a few months before it was decided to close the club.
At the other end of the central aisle is was this very nice wrought iron barrier. Immediately in front of it are one of the fluorescent light fittings, followed by one of the aluminium ventilation tubes which ran down from holes knocked in the ceiling down to the public area in the stalls.
More wrought ironwork, and one of a pair at either end of the foot of the circle. All of these have now thankfully been saved from the bulldozers.
One of the exits from the circle. When built, turning left out of this door led to the now blocked up sun terrace. Turning right led through what had become the staff changing area and computer room.
Looking at the end of the rows of seats, which don’t look like they’ve been changed since 1933. Notice the ‘G’ for Granada moulded into the end of them.
Looking across some of the seating in the circle-just look at how dusty it was up there! The yellow things are rodent bait I believe, but plenty of bingo debris (including Granada Bingo books and polystyrene cups) and other junk litters the area too.
A View over the false ceiling, towards the proscenium arch. You can just make out the ventilation grilles corresponding to those in the main hall in the centre of the picture.
Again looking towards the proscenium arch, over the false ceiling, towards the centre of the hall. The fire curtain appeared to be in place, but I couldn’t get a decent shot of it in the gloom.
The best overall shot that my camera could manage! Again, looking towards the proscenium. Note the ventilation tube in the foreground stretching all the way down.
I particularly liked these gents toilets (!) as they seemed to be pretty much unchanged since the building of the place! This looks towards the sole cubicle-none of us could figure out what the hatch in the wall was for though.
Another remarkable survivor from the opening of the cinema in these toilets was this fantastic mirror, which I was very excited to find. The missing piece of blue glass was on the floor, and this was surely one of the few bits of the building left where you were reminded of how grand it must have once been.
This website is in no way affiliated with The Gala Group. The photos herein were all taken between August 29th and September 2nd 2003.
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