Oxford Circus may be best known for high street clobber, diagonal street crossings and excessive tube queues, but it’s also home to Britain’s very first movie theatre. Not only was the Regent Street Cinema the first place to project a moving image in 1896 when it screened footage by pioneering filmmakers the Lumière brothers, but it also played the UK’s first ever x-rated scenes on the big screen. Okay, so they were actually footage of IVF treatments but it was still scandalous! The space has had many lives including being used as a training and rehabilitation centre for injured First World War soldiers, before becoming a popular picture palace from the 1950s until 1980 when it closed to the public. It has been moonlighting as a lecture hall for the neighbouring University of Westminster ever since.
Now after a £5 million regeneration project, the 200-seat cinema has been restored to its former glory complete with original features including the 1935 Compton organ and it is reopening to the public on May 6. Although you won’t find any blue movies on the bill, the programme still leans towards the artier end of the film spectrum, screening double bills, premieres of independent new releases and old classics on both 16 and 35mm film and digital.
Find out more and book tickets at regentstreetcinema.com.
Check out these lovely pics:
By Sonya Barber. All ‘now’ photos taken by Rob Greig