The Electric Cinema, Birmingham

The Electric in Birmingham is the UK’s oldest working cinema and is home to sofas, a bar and waiter service.

The cinema has been sympathetically restored to its early 20th century design and sites pride of place near to Grand Central Station. It is much loved by locals and is used as a wedding venue amongst other things.

There are two digital screens which show a mixture of the latest quality mainstream, independent, foreign and classic films.

The Electric Cinema opened on the 27th of December 1909. It was Birmingham’s first cinema. In 1920, the cinema was bought out and underwent the first of many name changes, becoming known as The Select. After continuing to show silent movies during the 1920s, the cinema added sound in 1930.

Although The Electric is the oldest working cinema in the UK, it’s not the best example of an Edwardian Picture house, as there’s not a great deal left of the original building due to a rebuild in 1937.

After a period of closure, (when it was rumoured that it was used as an amusement arcade!) work commenced on the upper floors of the cinema in 1936. A year later, the cinema reopened as Birmingham’s second news theatre, The Tatler. The cinema showed rolling news reels from Pathe and British Movietone, along with short films and cartoons.

Cohen was a highly successful Birmingham businessman and owed 50 cinemas at the height of the Jacey Cinema chain. Along with being friends with Walt Disney, he also knew Oscar Deutsch, the Birmingham entrepreneur behind the Odeon chain, the first of which was built in Perry Barr in 1933.

The cinema was unusual, as it shot and edited its own regional news, some of which still remains today. News and cartoons were shown until the late 1960s when the advent of TV removed the need for current affairs programming in cinemas

At the end of 2003, The Electric closed, showing Kill Bill for the final screening. A few months later, the cinema was bought by film maker Tom Lawes who intended to run a recording studio upstairs and reopen the main screen to the public.

Further growth in 2007 made clear the demand for a second screen, especially during the awards season where so many good quality films are released. The studio was re-housed in the basement in early summer 2008 and a state-of-the-art digital projector system was installed in Screen 2.

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