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Published on June 4th, 2015 | by Niall Norbury

6

Reading’s Lost Cinemas

It is hard to imagine that at one point in history there were nine cinemas open simultaneously in Reading.

Sadly, most of these small but historic theatres were made redundant by huge multiplexes and now cinema choices in Reading are limited to Vue, Reading Film Theatre and Showcase Cinema.

From Broad Street to Caversham, we have a look at some of Reading’s lost cinemas:

Vaudeville Electric Theatre – Broad Street

vaudeville

Reading’s oldest cinema, the Vaudeville Electric Theatre opened in 1909 on Broad Street and could originally hold 500 people. After several renovations, by 1921 it was able to hold 1,500 cinema-goers. The cinema featured a huge auditorium with a barrel vaulted ceiling, and seating split into stalls and circle levels. Like many of Reading’s cinemas, it changed hands several times eventually changing its name to the Gaumont. By 1967 the cinema was closed and now has been replaced by a Boots.

Odeon Reading – Cheapside

odeonreading

Opened in 1937 on Cheapside, Odeon Reading was one of the first Odeon cinemas in the country. It was built to have a sleek, modern design compared to many of the other theatres in Reading and was able to hold over 1,600 people. The cinema was redeveloped multiple times, with the interior split into three screens. It closed in 1999, screening Fight Club, The Sixth Sense and the Blair Witch Project.

Central Picture Playhouse – Friar Street

abcreading

Better known to many people by its later name – ABC Reading – the Friar Street cinema dates back to 1921 where it opened with a screening of The Call of the Road. The cinema originally featured a cafe which was later changed to a second screen and a ballroom for patrons. Interestingly, the projector was located underneath the circle seating. The cinema went through multiple names – Central Picture Playhouse, MGM, Cannon, ABC Reading – before finally closing in 1999. It is now the site of Hotel Ibis Reading.

Rex Cinema – Oxford Road

rex-cinema

The Rex Cinema in West Reading had a very short life – it was open for only 21 years. Originally built in 1937 for independent operators, Simmons Theatres, like many other cinemas in Reading it was later owned by Associated British Theatres (ABC) until its closure in 1958. Despite it’s brief history, the cinema inspired a lot of love among nearby residents, with an unsuccessful campaign launched in 1997 to prevent the building being redeveloped into apartments.

Granby Cinema – London Road

Photo courtesy of Leslie Dray

From West Reading to East Reading: Cemetery Junction once was home to the grand and majestic Granby Cinema. First opened in 1935, the cinema was independently run and had a cafe for its patrons. Like the Rex Cinema, it was later taken over by the ABC chain and modernised before closing in 1982. It was considered to be a ‘roadshow cinema’, where film companies would test out movies in a limited number of theatres before general release.

The Pavilion Cinema – Oxford Road

pavilion reading

The Pavilion Cinema may be better known to many people as the Gaumont – as it took the name from the Vaudeville Electric Theatre after its closure. The Pavilion first opened in 1929 with a screening of ‘Showboat’ – the cinema originally had a live organist to accompany screenings as well as a tea lounge for patrons. The cinema changed hands several times before finally closing in 1979. Although the theatre has gone, the redbrick building remains intact.

Glendale Cinema – Church Street

glendale

Opened in 1911, the Glendale Cinema was one of the oldest film theatres in Reading and the first cinema built in Caversham. It began life as ‘The Electric Theatre’ before later undergoing a name change in the 1940s to become the Glendale Cinema, as well having CinemaScope installed. The Glendale was closed in 1977 and later converted into a church.

Regal Cinema – Church Street

regal

What is currently a Waitrose was once Caversham’s second cinema – The Regal Cinema which operated from 1938 to 1958. Built almost directly opposite the Glendale, the Regal featured a 35-feet wide proscenium which dwarfed its rival. However, the Glendale had the last laugh outlasting the Regal by almost two decades.

Savoy Cinema – Basingstoke Road

savoy

The Savoy Cinema was considered to be ahead of its time when it was opened in 1936 – with a modern design, variety acts, a specialist cafe and large screen. Sadly, this did not save it from closure less than less 30 years after it first opened. Like many other cinemas in Reading, it began life as an independent theatre before being taken over by ABC.

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About the Author

is the Editor and Creator of Alt Reading. He works in the voluntary sector supporting charities and community groups in Reading.



  • Hugh Terry

    I remember going to some of these picture palaces, particularly the Granby, Glendale, Gaumont & Odeon. Their disappearance is a sad loss to the town. But I wonder, whatever happened to Reading’s theatres – for live stage performances?

  • paulhird

    The Odeon in Cheapside was replaced by “The Picture House” apartment buildings. The photo of the Job Centre is incorrect – the Job centre stands the site of the Odeon’s car park.

    • John Davis

      Yep the jobcentre was built (in the eighties or early nineties IIRC) a while before the Odeon closed

  • LovelyGrandchild

    Hi, I’m trying to find out what was on at the Odeon in Reading in October 1967, particularly Friday 13th 1967. My grandparents went there for their first date 50 years ago, and the family are trying to track down which film they might have seen. Does anyone know where I might be able to find this out? Thank you :)

  • Paul Anthony

    Just a punt, but I remember going to see ‘Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush’ around that time.

  • Mark

    The ABC Granby London Road when I knew it from cifrca 1966
    till it closed was THE and only 70mm and Stereophonic sound in Reading full stop!
    so it was a vital cinema and had been home to screenings of Sound Of Music, 2001 Where Eagles Dare, Abba The Movie all in both 70mm and Stereo.

    The cinema also ran ABC Minors and often ran Great Walt Disney Weeks where
    out of run gems 2 films Sunday-Monday, Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
    Special on Saturday 8 Films over the week.
    I first saw Peter Pan, Lady & The Tramp (Cinemascope and Stereo) , Snow White, Alice In Wonderland, Swiss Family Robinson, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (Stereo blown up 70mm) Sleeping Beauty (70mm Stereo), Old Yeller, Follow Me Boys on these great WD weeks, the manager really did know his stuff!

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