You may well be unaware that there’s an old movie theatre just a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus. The historic Regent Street Cinema (part of the University of Westminster) is set to be restored and reopened as part of a £5 million regeneration project. Described as ‘the birthplace of British Cinema’, it hosted the Lumiere brothers’ first demonstration of their cinematography and was also the site of the first photographic studio in Europe (Dickens himself had a portrait taken here in 1841). In another first, the cinema hosted the X-rated film ‘Life Begins Tomorrow’ featuring Picasso and Le Corbusier to riotous acclaim. Unfortunately, the building’s big screen fell into disuse in 1981, but the University hope to restore it to it’s former glory as a working cinema where student’s can screen their films alongside more commercial features. The auditorium, which is currently moonlighting as a lecture hall, contains the recently restored Compton Organ, described by Nick Kent from the Tricycle theatre as the ‘loudest largest’ and probably only ‘organ on Regent Street’.
So far over half the money for the restoration has been raised and the University (who’ve already secured backing from the MBI Al Jaber Foundation, Quintin Hogg Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund) are looking for further contributions from the corporate donors as well as members of the public. Didi Mae Hand
For info, see birthplaceofcinema.com.