These London Buildings All Used To Be Cinemas

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 16 months ago

Last Updated 03 March 2023

These London Buildings All Used To Be Cinemas

Several of London's pubs, restaurants and churches used to be cinemas. We have only included former cinemas whose buildings still exist at least in part, or which have been repurposed. For information about former cinemas which have now been demolished, we recommend taking a look at Cinema Treasures.

Tower Cinema, Peckham

Photo: Londonist

This colourful offering on Peckham's Rye Lane used to be the entrance to the Tower Cinema. The 2,150 seater auditorium was situated where the Choumert Grove car park now is, and opened in 1914. A marketing campaign billed it as one of the three towers to visit in London, along with the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

A young Michael Caine frequented the cinema on his days truanting school. In his autobiography, he tells of one particular incident in which, aged 14, he took up a female box office worker's offer: "Give us your chocolate and I'll show you me tits". Caine obliged, but was left disappointed.

The Tower Cinema closed in December 1956, and the remaining structure, shown above, is not listed.

King's Cross Cinema, King's Cross

Better known these days as a live music and clubbing venue, Scala began life as a cinema. The first world war interrupted its construction, before it finally opened in 1920 as King's Cross Cinema. It designed by H. Courtenay Constantine, the same architect behind the Tower Cinema in Peckham. Constantine's cinemas all featured metre-high entrance towers.

It was damaged during the Blitz, reopening as the Gaumont Cinema in 1952, going through various name changes and dabbling in adult film screenings, before closing in 1974. The building isn't listed.

Angel (Odeon) Cinema, Islington

1983/2010. Photo: roll the dice

This one completes the trio of H. Courtenay Constantine's London cinemas — again, his signature entrance tower features. It opened as Angel Cinema in around 1911, becoming the Odeon in 1963 before closing in 1972. This main building on Islington High Street is now occupied by a Starbucks, and is Grade II listed. The cinema had a separate entrance round the corner on White Lion Street, which has since been demolished.

Carlton Cinema, Essex Road, Islington

The then-empty Carlton Cinema building in 2012. Photo: Paul Wood

Today it's available for hire and functions as a church, but the exterior of this building makes no secret of its past. It was designed by architect George Coles — whose other art deco cinema buildings include the Muswell Hill Odeon — in the 1930s, and operated as cinema until 1972, before becoming a bingo hall (at which point it was given Grade II* listed status).

This closed in 2007, and it was left derelict for several years before reopening in its current incarnation in 2015.

The Odeon Isleworth

Image: Google Earth

The former Isleworth Odeon, which opened in 1935, was also one of George Coles's designs, and ran as a cinema until 1957. It was converted into Isleworth Studios, but remained unlisted and was sold off in the early 2000s. It now forms part of a block of flats. You'll find it on the corner of London Road and Harvard Road.

The Capitol, Forest Hill

Photo: Laura Reynolds

Now a Wetherspoon pub, The Capitol on Forest Hill isn't shy in shouting about its 1920s cinema heritage. It opened in 1929, becoming the ABC Cinema in 1968 before closing in 1973. It functioned as a bingo hall between 1978-1996 (it was given Grade II listed status in 1993), and has been a pub since 2001.

The interior is as decadent as the exterior. The entrance is decked out as a ticket/refreshment booth, and the bar runs the length of where the screen would have been. In 2016, it was announced that The Capitol would be closing — although at time of writing (January 2017) it remains steadfastly open.

The Coronet, Holloway

Photo: Peter H

The Capitol isn't the only former cinema to be commandeered by the Wetherspoon chain (you might say the company makes a habit of it). The Coronet in Holloway has been a pub since 1996. In 2015, the pub chain was ordered to pay £24,000 damages for refusing a group of travellers entry.

Prior to this, it had been known variously as the Savoy Cinema, ABC Cinema and Coronet Cinema, and also acted as a snooker hall from 1984-1987.

Coronet Cinema, Eltham

The exterior in 2009, when it was derelict. Here's what it looks like today. Photo: LiamCH

Another former outpost of the Coronet Cinema chain sits on Wells Hall roundabout in Eltham. It originally opened as an Odeon Cinema and had 1,028 seats in the stalls and 578 in the circle in its peak, before being split into two smaller auditoriums in 1973. It was renamed Coronet in 1981.

It has been Grade II listed since 1989, and today is home to a Kinesis gym

Eltham cinephiles also had the Gaumont on Eltham Hill (now Mecca Bingo) and the now-demolished ABC Eltham to choose from.

Brixton Hill Bioscope Theatre

The site of the cinema in 2016. Photo: Google Earth

This one-screen cinema was a short-lived venture, opening in 1910 and closing just a year later, although South London Guide suggests it went on to operate as a cinema under different names. Elsewhere it's referred to as Brixton Cinematograph Theatre.

Today, galette and juice restaurant Kata Kata occupies the building (next door to better-known Jamaican grill Negril).

Rex Cinema, Stratford

The building in 2015. Photo: Google Earth

This one wasn't a purpose-built cinema — it was built as the Borough Theatre in 1896, before being converted into a cinema by George Coles. This is what the cinema interior looked like. It closed in 1975, and remained empty until it was reopened as a music venue in 1997, going through several closures and refurbishments, mostly recently functioning as Sync nightclub — a place which ruled: "All groups must be mixed or predominantly female." It closed in 2013.

The Regal, Streatham

The Regal Cinema — known variously as the ABC Cinema and Cannon Cinema — opened in 1938 and closed in 2000. Here's what the exterior looked like in 1960 (oh, to see Streatham High Road that empty these days). The building is still standing (the front is Grade II listed, the auditorium was not) after being converted into luxury flats in 2006.

Here's the Mayor of Wandsworth attending the ceremony to switch the lights on the front of the building back on following the end of the war blackout — which had begun just a year after the cinema originally opened:

Find it on Streatham High Road, opposite the junction with Broadlands Avenue.

EMD Cinema, Walthamstow

The cinema exterior in November 2015. Here's what it looks like today. Photo: Mirth, Marvel & Maud

Mirth, Marvel and Maud is a restaurant, bar and events space which has taken up residence in the Grade II* listed former EMD Cinema on Hoe Street in Walthamstow. In its cinema days, it was frequented by Alfred Hitchcock. The 2,697 seater opened in 1930 as the Granada Cinema, and went through several name changes before closing in 2003. There were plans to turn it into a place of worship, but local objections were raised, and Mirth, Marvel and Maud opened in December 2015.

There's a more indepth account of the cinema's history on Derelict London.

Gateway House, Woolwich

Photo: Google Maps

On a roundabout on the South Circular in Woolwich sits the above Grade II listed building. Today it's owned by the New Wine Church, but it was built as the Odeon in 1937. In its peak, the building's neon exterior lights could apparently be seen from the other side of the Thames.

Gaumont Palace, Wood Green

The building in 2008. Photo: Geoff Holland

Wood Green's Gaumont Palace opened in 1933 to coincide with the new Piccadilly line station in the area. Today it's Grade II* listed and functions as a church, but it's been used as a theatre, cinema and bingo hall during its lifespan.

Here's an idea what the interior was like:

Gaumont State, Kilburn

Photo: Michael Caroe Andersen

The remains of the Gaumont State Cinema, can be seen on Kilburn High Road. It was designed by George Coles to resemble New York's Empire State Building (hence the tower, and the name) and opened in 1937.  It doubled up as a theatre during its time as an entertainment, and was a Mecca Bingo hall until 2007, during which time it was grade II* listed. Today it's a church.

This is by no means a complete list. Where have we missed? Let us know in the comments.