Grants for Cinemas
Cinema buildings have for many years been under pressure. Once a mainstay of the public-realm, they have been threatened with closure, forced to change use or even demolished. Two cinema owning organisations have bucked this trend and the AHF has decided to support them in its recent round of grant awards.
The Royalty Harborne, Birmingham
The Royalty in Birmingham was built in 1930 and is typical of a swathe of cinema chains enhanced by the Cinematograph Act of 1927 and the arrival of talking pictures in 1928. This was an age of mass entertainment which saw (according to Historic England) close to 1,500 new cinemas being built between 1920 and 1940. The Royalty was designed by Horace G. Bradley for Selly Oak Pictures Limited in a classic Art Deco style, and in its heyday could accommodate almost 1,500 people.
The cinema closed in 1963 and then became a bingo hall. In 2015 it was bought by a developer whose planning application for housing was refused by the local authority. Harborne Royalty Trust stepped up to acquire the cinema but tragically the building was hit by fire so the group scaled back its plans to a smaller independent cinema, café and community space.
The Trust has been working hard in partnership with the local authority and the owner to ensure a viable scheme comes forward. The AHF grant of £4,520 will enable the Trust to employ a conservation architect to prepare a heritage statement and condition survey, a quantity surveyor to update costs and produce a valuation, and a structural engineer to advise on any mitigation required as a result of the fire.
Abbeydale Picture House, Sheffield
Abbeydale Picture House in Sheffield is a landmark building built in 1921 as a luxurious cine-variety complex including a basement ballroom. The original seating plans were for 1,500 with an orchestra for silent movies. In 1975 the cinema closed and was re-used as a furniture showroom, warehouse and snooker hall. These operations closed during the 1990s and it spent a long time being misused, derelict and underappreciated.
CADS (Creative Arts Development Space) which runs arts studios and events in underused buildings in Sheffield realised the opportunity presented by Abbeydale and so took on the lease in 2017. It now uses the building as its base running it as a not for profit space whilst fundraising for the building’s long-term restoration. Spaces throughout the building are available to hire including the auditorium boasting the largest 4:3 aspect screen in Sheffield, artist’s studio spaces, a café, reception room and the Fly Tower which is a four storey room formerly used for hoisting scenery.
The AHF grant of £7,500 will be used for specialist surveys (asbestos and drainage) and to seek professional advice for works to adapt the building. They also wish to employ a heritage consultant to inform their plans and repairs.
1) The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans.
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