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Brighton & Hove from the dawn of the cinema



Please note: This version has been superseded by that in the book Cinema-by-Sea.

film listing link Click on the bioscope icon to see the listing of films made in Brighton & Hove

Numbers after entries link to the list of references.


• 1854

 July 23  Birt Acres is born in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

• 1856

 May 2  Emma Solomon (the future Violet Melnotte-Wyatt) is born in Birmingham.
 September 7  William Green (later Friese Greene) 9is born in Bristol.
 November 8  James Williamson is born at Pathhead, Kircaldy, Scotland.

• 1859

• Arthur Albert (Esmé) Collings is born in Weston-super-Mare.

• 1860

• Elizabeth Alice Frances Hawkins-Whitshed (the future Mrs Aubrey Le Blond) is born.

• 1876

• Pioneering English animator Ernest John Anson Dyer (1876-1962) is born in Brighton, probably at 55 William Street.

• 1885

• The first long-distance telephone trunk line is installed between London and Brighton.

• 1886

James Williamson's premises

•  James A Williamson (1855-1933) moves his chemist's/photographic business to 144 Church Road, Hove (left,later renumbered as 156), taking over the premises from a photographer called S Grey, formerly in partnership as Wells & Grey.
[The premises at 156 Church Road were still a chemist's shop in 1948 and, coincidentally, the new 144 was occupied by a photographer. The Church Road shop bears a commemorative plaque.]

• 1888

Friese Greene & Collings advertisement 1889

•  William Friese-Greene (1855-1921) and Alfred Esmé Collings (1859-1936) establish a joint photographic business with a studio at 69 Western Road, Hove ( Map B). Friese-Greene is a successful photographer with, at various overlapping times, three studios in London, two in Bath, and studios in Bristol (Clifton) and Plymouth. The advertisement [left] is from an 1889 street directory.

• 1889

Friese-Greene plaque; click for more information• William Friese-Greene builds a 'chronophotographic camera' with which he takes 'animated photographs' and for which he applies for an English patent, granted (no 10131) on 21 June.
Despite the claim on the plaque at 20 Middle Street, Brighton (click on the picture to see more about the house), Friese-Greene lived and worked in London at this time.

• 1891

William Friese-Greene

• William Friese-Greene [right] is declared bankrupt, his photographic business having suffered because of the time he has been devoting to his experiments in cinematography and other inventions. His partnership with Esmé Collings formally ends; Collings retains the photographic business at 69 Western Road, Hove (re-numbered 120 in 1893; Map D), where he remains until the First World War.

• 1894

G A Smith• George Albert Smith (1864-1959) [right] takes a lease on St Ann's Well Gardens, between Furze Road and Somerhill Road, Hove, from the Goldsmid family. Smith develops the pleasure gardens to include such novelties as a fortune teller and a hermit living in a cave. Map G.

• Alfred Darling begins an engineering business from his home at 47 Chester Terrace, Brighton.

• 1895

• An Edison Kinetoscope is installed at Brighton Aquarium. Map F

• 1896

 March  G A Smith sees the programme of Lumière films in Leicester Square, London.

 March 16  G A Smith presents the first of three dioramic lectures at the Aquarium, using optical lantern illustrations to create 'brilliant dissolving views and beautiful mechanical and dioramic effects'.

 March 25  The first film show in Brighton (and first in the UK outside London) is given at the Pandora Gallery, opposite the West Pier, using a 'cinematographe'. (Sussex Daily News, 26 March 1896). The Melrose Restaurant occupies the site and carries a plaque to mark the event. Map C.

 July 6  A film show of R W Paul's 'Celebrated Animatographe' is given at the Victoria Hall, (132) King's Road, Brighton ( Map C)—formerly the Pandora Gallery—beginning an extended run. Programmes run throughout the day from 11.30 am to 10.30 pm. Admission is 6d (2½p), reserved seats 1s (5p). R W Paul himself shoots a film during July of a small boat landing on Brighton beach, 'with comic incidents'.13 Alexandra Villas

 summer  Esmé Collings makes a number of films in Brighton. His film subjects include a number shot during the summer, particularly in August: Brighton front on a bank holiday (King's Road), Boys scrambling for pennies under the West Pier, Children paddling and playing on the sands, Donkey riding (King's Road Arches), Hove sea wall in a gale, Bathers on the beach and Ocean waves in a storm. Train arriving at Dyke Station, filmed at the local beauty spot Devil's Dyke, mimics Lumière's work. He also films Woman undressing, sometimes credited with being the first 'blue movie'. Among other productions by Collings during the latter part of the year is a short drama, The Broken Melody, featuring the cellist Auguste Van Biene. Collings lives at 13 Alexandra Villas (right, Map E).

 September 18  Alfred Darling (1862-1931) carries out equipment repairs for Esmé Collings at his engineering works at 25 Ditchling Rise, Brighton, between Preston Road and Beaconsfield Road, in the shadow of the viaduct close to London Road Station. [Darling's works later move to Adas Works, South Road at Preston Park and could be looked down on from southbound trains about 400 yards south of Preston Park station. The firm, still run by members of the Darling family, is now located in Home Farm Road, Hollingbury.]

 October 19  Chard's Vitagraph begins an eight-week run at the Empire Palace of Varieties. The programme includes some of Esmé Collings' local scenes.

 November 19-21  Hove Camera Club's annual exhibition includes films made by James Williamson.

 December 11  G A Smith, building his own camera,  commissions his first work from Alfred Darling.

 December 24  Film is used briefly during the pantomime, Babes in the Wood and Robin Hood, at Brighton's Theatre Royal in New Road.

• James Williamson introduces X-ray photography to Sussex.

James Williamson on Brighton film-making in 1896
Brighton is often mentioned as the home of film production and there certainly were three different producers in this town about the time under review: Esmé Collings, G A Smith and the writer. Brighton also provided an attractive background and was often visited by producers from London and elsewhere, especially in later years. The three above mentioned will probably all admit that this coincidence and their early start were materially assisted by Mr Alfred Darling, a clever engineer who made a study of the requirements of film producers. The writer at this time was floundering about with home-made apparatus and did succeed in making some pictures, but the real start was only made when the late W Wrench of Gray's Inn Road introduced him to Darling. The Williamson Series of Short Comedies were not commenced until the year following the one under review.
Source: Unpublished notebooks, quoted in Rachel Low and Roger Manvell: The History of the British Film 1896-1906, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1948

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1896
Esmé Collings 13 (+ 13 elsewhere)
others 4

• 1897

Aquarium programme

 March 29  G A Smith includes 'animated photographs' ('The Rage of London. The Photographic Sensation of the day.') at the end of each programme of projected entertainment that he gives twice daily (at 3pm and 8pm) during the coming week at the Brighton Aquarium, adjacent to the Palace Pier ( Map F). Local scenes are included. Click on the image [right] to enlarge the programme.

Aquarium programme listing

• G A Smith, with a 'studio' plant now established at the Pump House in St Ann's Well Garden's, Hove, uses double-exposure in at least three films—The Corsican Brothers, The Haunted Castle and Photographing a Ghost—and patents the process.

 November  James Williamson again includes moving pictures at the Hove Camera Club's annual exhibition.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1897
Esmé Collings 2
G A Smith 31 titles (35 films)
James Williamson 5
           others 1

• 1898

 September  James Williamson moves his chemist's/photographic business from 144 Church Road, Hove to 55 Western Road, Hove ( Map H).

 end November  A Mutoscope parlour opens at 22 Western Road, Brighton. It is open daily with free admission but the viewing machines are coin-operated.

 early December  Three more Mutoscope parlours open in Brighton at 105 King's Road, 27 West Street and 50 Western Road.

• John 'Mad Jack' Benett-Stanford (1870-1947), an adventurer and son of Charles and Edith Benett-Stanford, who own Preston Manor, becomes the first person to make a film in war conditions at the battle of Omdurman in South Africa. The film shows Kitchener reviewing the troops.

• Mrs Aubrey Le Blond (née Elizabeth Alice Frances Hawkins-Whitshed; 1860-1934), an intrepid mountaineer and traveller, who lives at 67 The Drive, Hove, makes at least 10 films of winter sports in Switzerland, including toboganning on the Cresta Run and figure skating. She is probably the first identifiable woman film-maker (although Laura Bayley, wife of G A Smith, probably has a significant role in the production of films credited to her husband or his company).

• Among G A Smith's film productions this year is The Miller and the Sweep, involving a fight with flour and soot. During the year Smith has built up his film film processing and printing business with clients including not only local film-makers James Williamson and John Benett-Stanford but Warwick Trading Company (London), Prestwick Manufacturing Company (Tottenham), Riley Brothers (Bradford) and J Wrench & Son (London).

• Programme of films by George Albert Smith and his French counterpart Georges Méliès runs at the Alhambra Theatre and Music Hall on King's Road, Brighton, one of the town's premier entertainment venues.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1898
G A Smith 31
James Williamson 50 titles (75 films)

• 1899

 January  Programme of films by G A Smith and Georges Méliès runs at the Alhambra Theatre (later the Palladium Cinema). [0051]

 October 7  Benett-Stanford leaves for the front in the Boer War, taking with him a film camera—the first person to do so.

 November-December  Benett-Stanford films more Boer War scenes for the UK branch of Warwick Trading Company, managed by American Charles Urban.

• Alfred Darling manufactures Biokam 17.5mm cameras and projectors.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1899
G A Smith 23 titles (29 films)
James Williamson 6

• 1900

 January 13  James Williamson holds the first of the year's weekly film shows, Williamson's Popular Entertainments, at Hove Town Hall in Church Road, then on the next five weeks. The shows resume in November.

G A Smith's studio in Hove

• Warwick Trading Company (WTC) supports the construction of a film studio [right] for G A Smith at St Ann's Well Gardens, Furze Hill, Hove ( Map G) at the start of a two-year contract. In the three years since starting production in 1897, G A Smith has made £2,000 profit from the medium. Warwick distributes films made by Smith and Williamson, as well as representing the American parent, plus Lumière and Méliès. In September, the WTC catalogue describes Smith as 'Manager of the Brighton Film Works of the Warwick Trading Company'.

• G A Smith introduces close-ups in films, such as The Little Doctor. His Spiders in a Web, showing a close-up of two spiders within a circular mask, is one of the earliest natural history films. He also uses masking in As Seen Through a Telescope.
The latter film can be viewed by educational users and researchers at screenonline

Darling Duplex Model M

• Alfred Darling introduces the Duplex Model M camera, which takes 300 ft reels of film. [left]

•  James Williamson makes a landmark film with significant dramatic innovations. Attack on a China Mission—Blue Jackets to the Rescue, a scene from the Boxer Rising in China but actually filmed in Hove, is a 230-foot four-shot film (nearly four minutes) that intercuts a reverse angle shot to show the opposite point of view.Attack on a Chinese Mission

 November 17  James Williamson premieres Attack on a China Mission [right] at Hove Town Hall in Church Road.

 November 24  James Williamson's Saturday evening show at Hove Town Hall includes two films by Mrs Aubrey Le Blond (see 1898).

 December 1  James Williamson's Saturday evening show at Hove Town Hall includes more films by Mrs Aubrey Le Blond.

 December 8  James Williamson conducts a final Saturday evening show for the year at Hove Town Hall.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1900
G A Smith 32 titles (37 films)
James Williamson 10

• 1901

• Alfred Darling is commissioned by Charles Urban to make a prototype three-colour camera to a design by Edward Turner, whose work is backed by Charles Urban.

Williamson: A Big Swallow• By the time of the census, James Williamson is still living with his family (wife, four sons and three daughters) above the shop at 55 Church Road. He is described as 'Chemist & druggist but engaged in photography only'. Among his films this year are A Big Swallow, in which the subject of a photograph swallows the camera and Fire!, a dramatised documentary shwoingt he Hove fire brigade in action. The latter is filmed at the soon-to-be-demolished Ivy Lodge in Old Shoreham Road

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1901
G A Smith 18 titles (20 films)
James Williamson 16

• 1902

Cambridge Grove, Hove

• G A Smith produces Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.

• James Williamson moves his Williamson Kinematographic Company to a site now known as Cambridge Grove [right], off Wilbury Villas, Hove. He and his family occupy the house, called Rose Cottage, next to which he builds a glasshouse film studio and another smaller building identified as a 'photographic atelier'. The new buildings are designed by W B Sheppard. In the picture Williamson is the seated figure. During the year he produces The Little Match Seller (click here to view the film) and two pioneering films on social issues: A Reservist Before and After the War and The Soldier's Return.

• Alfred Darling manufactures Junior Bioscope Darling cameras.

Coronation of Edward VII

 June  G A Smith is involved with Georges Méliès in the production of a film of the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Because Mutoscope and Biograph has the rights to film the actual event, Charles Urban of Warwick Trading Company commissions a version of the ceremony to be made with actors in advance at Méliès' Star Films studio in Montreil, Paris.

 June 25  James Williamson films the rehearsal procession for the coronation of King Edward VII. The coronation, scehduled for 26 June, had been postponed the previous day because the king required an emergency appendectomy.

 August 9  James Williamson makes several films of the coronation processions in London.

 1902-1903  Esmé Collings has an additional photographic business at 89 King's Road. However, he is no longer making films.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1902
G A Smith 33
James Williamson 26 titles (46 films)

• 1903

 February 17  Dr Benjamin Jumeaux of Colebrook Road, Southwick and Capt W N Lascelles Davidson of 20 Middle Street, Brighton apply for two patents for 'Improvements in and connected with Trichromatic Photography and Optical Projection' and 'Improvements in Trichromatic Photography'.

Charles Urban

• Charles Urban [right] leaves Warwick to set up the Charles Urban Trading Company to make and sell cinema equipment and films. He takes G A Smith's distribution rights with him. Having already assisted Edward Turner in the development of a three-colour film system (see 1901), he buys up the patents when Turner dies suddenly in March. Urban interests Smith in pursuing the project (see 1906).

• G A Smith produces Dorothy's Dream, The Sick Kitten and Mary Jane's Mishap.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1903
G A Smith 9
James Williamson 14
Jumeaux & Davidson 1

• 1904

 January  Hove Council establishes a set of six rules for the conduct of cinematograph exhibitions in the borough. (National legislation is not introduced until the Cinematograph Act in 1909.)

Hove rules for cinematograph exhibitions January 1904.
The lantern must be constructed of metal or lined with metal and asbestos.
A metal shutter, in addition to the revolving disc shutter, must be provided between the source of light and the film, and kept closed except when the film is in motion for the purpose of projection.
If the film does not wind upon a reel or spool immediately after passing through the machine, a metal receptacle with slot in the metal lid must be provided for receiving it.
If electric arc lights are used, the installation must be in accordance with the usual rules, thatis the chkong coils and switch must be securely fixed on incombustible bases, preferably on a brick wall, and double pole safety fuses must be fitted.
If any oxy-hydrogen gas is used, storage must be in metal cylinders only.
The use of ether or other spirit saturator is not to be permitted under any circumstances.
A damp blanket and fire buckets has to be immediately available.

 February 11  Jumeaux and Davidson's patents for colour photography are granted.

• A H Tee takes over the lease on St Anne's Well Gardens from G Albert Smith, who moves to a studio ('Laboratory Lodge') at his home in Roman Crescent, Southwick.

 1904-1905  Capt W Lascelles Davidson and Benjamin Jumeaux have a 'laboratory for natural colour photography' at 20 Middle Street, Brighton.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1904
G A Smith 0 (+ 8 made elsewhere)
James Williamson 13
Alf Collins 2


• 1905

• William Friese-Greene rents a house in Arundel Street, Brighton with his second wife and family. He works on practical ideas for colour cinematography, collaborating with Captain Lascelles Davidson and Dr Benjamin Jumeaux. He may have his own rented workshop at 20 Middle Street, Brighton.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1905
James Williamson 10


• 1906

 July  G A Smith makes the first colour test films at Southwick. He has abandoned the three-colour approach of Edward Turner (see 1903) in favour of a two-colour (red-green) process.

 November 24  G A Smith applies for a patent on the colour film process.

• Around this time occasional film shows are given in the roller-skating rink at 78 West Street. (In 1911 this becomes the Grand Picture Palace cinema.)

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1906
G A Smith 1 (+ 3 made elsewhere)
James Williamson 7

• 1907

 June 11  G A Smith applies for a US patent for 'Kinematograph apparatus for the production of colored pictures'.

 July 25  G A Smith's British patent for colour kinematography is granted.

Friese-Greene house, Portslade

• Williamson & Co opens an office at 27 Cecil Court, London.

• William Friese-Greene has a photographic business at 203a Western Road. He and his growing family move to 9 Worcester Villas, Hove, close to Portslade station [right]. The house bears a blue plaque to mark his residence there.
[Photo: David Fisher, Terra Media]

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1907
G A Smith 0 (+ 1 elsewhere)
James Williamson 14

• 1908

 July 8  Kinemacolor is demonstrated at a scientific meeting in Paris. The Lumière Brothers are in the audience.

 September  G A Smith's A Visit to the Seaside, the first completed film in Kinemacolor, becomes almost certainly the first colour film for public screening anywhere in the world. It shows scenes of Brighton, including The White Coons and the Cameron Highlanders Band.

 December 9  Kinemacolor is demonstrated to the Royal Society of Arts in London.

 December 14  First Kinemacolor public showing are held in London.

• James Williamson begins to relinquish directorial activity in favour of developing the film distribution and equipment sales side of the business.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1908
G A Smith 5 (+ 12 made elsewhere)
James Williamson 14
Jack Chart (for Williamson) 4

• 1909

 January 13  Electric Bioscope is opened in a converted shop at 130 Western Road, Brighton by Harold Speer. It seats about 50 people  (see also 1910). A cinema remains on the site until 1979, when it is absorbed into the Waitrose supermarket.

• The Court Theatre/Cinema in New Road, Brighton starts intermittent film shows during the year.

• G A Smith's colour film process is named Kinemacolor.

 February 26  A programme of 21 Kinemacolor short films is made at the Palace Theatre, London. This is the first presentation of colour films to a paying audience in the world.

 February  To discuss the threat to European production caused by the moves afoot in the American film industry (which ends with the generally illegal creation of the Motion Picture Patent Company, aka the Trust), a Paris Convention is held, attended by Williamson and Urban among others.

 March  Natural Colour Kinematograph Company is established by Charles Urban. G A Smith makes numerous film in Kinemacolor.

 November 30  G A Smith is granted a US patent for colour kinematography (no 941,960), for which had applied in June 1907.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1909
G A Smith 6 (+ 26 titles, 35 films, made elsewhere)
James Williamson 4
David Aylott (for Williamson) 10

• 1910

• Six permanent cinemas open, one a new purpose-built building, four others in converted buildings:
 spring  Cinema-de-Luxe is opened by Electric Theatres (1908) Ltd in the former printing works of the Brighton Gazette at 150 North Street, Brighton.
 July  The Gem Electric Cinema 'penny gaff' is opened by Mr J W Thompson in a shopfront site at 36a London Road, seating 60 on wooden benches. Admission costs 2d or 3d for adults, 1d or 2d for children.
 September 22  The first purpose-built cinema to open in Brighton is the Duke of York's Cinema at Preston Circus, which soon follows the renamed Queen's Electric Theatre. This is still operating under the same name as an independent art-house cinema. It is marked by a plaque.
 December 10  The Empire Picture Theatre, which is opened by Harry Scriven in a former assembly hall in Haddington Street, is the first cinema in Hove.
• People's Picture Palace cinema is opened by F R Griffiths in the former Arcadia Theatre of Varieties at the junction of Lewes Road and Park Crescent Place, Brighton.
• Star Cinema opens in a former Congregational Chapel in Shoreham.
• The Electric Bioscope in Western Road expands into the next-door shop and is fitted out with dimmable auditorium lights, curtains revealing the screen and an orchestra. The name changes to Queen's Electric Theatre.
 December 10  Empire Picture Theatre is opened in Haddington Street, Hove by Harry Scriven.

• James Williamson directs his last film: a pioneering natural history study of butterflies.
• James Williamson withdraws from film production and moves his company to London. His premises in Cambridge Grove are acquired by Charles Urban's Kinemacolor company, the Natural Colour Kinematograph Company, which also has a studio in the south of France. The rear of the Brighton premises, backing onto the railway line just to the west of the junction of the lines from Hove to Brighton and London, still shows the word Kinemacolor in large white letters.
• The first Kinemacolor drama production to be released is The Story of Napoleon.
 October 13  Natural Colour Kinematograph Company (NCKC) advertises in Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly that 'Full Advantage has been taken of the Recent Phenomenal Weather Conditions and a large number of Comic, Dramatic, Historic and General Natural Color Motion Picture Subjects have been secured at Brighton under the production of Mr Theo Bouwmeester'. More usually known as Theo Frenkel (Bouwmeester is his maternal grandfather's family name), this Dutch actor and film-maker in fact makes around 100 films for NCKC. Now all are made at the Cambridge Grove facility.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1910
G A Smith 8 (+ 27 made elsewhere), all in Kinemacolor
Theo Frenkel/Bouwmeester (for Natural Colour Kinematograph Co) 4*
James Williamson 1
           *other productions from this year are released over the following months

• 1911

• No fewer than nine cinemas open in Brighton & Hove and district during the year, including two that are purpose-built and two that will continue in operation for more than 60 years.
 March 15  Prince's Imperial Picture Palace and Theatre is opened by H Gutteridge at North Street, Portslade.
 April 11  Hove Electric Empire cinema opens at 76-77 George Street, the first purpose-built cinema in Hove.
 June 6  Academy Cinema opens at 59 West Street, Brighton. The opening programme includes Kinemacolor films, with a talk by G A Smith.
• Grand Picture Palace opens in a former roller-skating rink at 78 West Street, Brighton.
• Novelty Electric Theatre is opened by W Harold Speer, proprietor of the Queen's Electric Theatre in a former bazaar at 27 West Street, Brighton.
• Tierney Royal Picture Theatre is opened by Houghton Rockett in a converted shop on the site of the Tierney Arms pub at 64 Edward Street, Brighton.
• Coronation Cinema is opened by J L Crown in a former shop at 104 North Road, Brighton.
• Bijou Electric Empire cinema opens in a former newspaper printing works at 63a North Street, Brighton. Another (unrelated) Bijou Electric Cinema opens at Shoreham.

 December 12  The coronation durbar of King George V is the subject of the first major colour film production, The Durbar at Delhi, shot in Kinemacolor.

• Grand Picture Palace opens in a former roller-skating rink at 78 West Street, Brighton.

• Brighton Borough Council bans Sunday opening of cinemas but soon reversed the decision.

• Around this period, the future production team of the Boulting brothers, John and Roy, live in New Church Road, Hove.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1911
G A Smith 83, all Kinemacolor but few made in Brighton & Hove
Theo Frenkel/Bouwmeester (for Natural Colour Kinematograph Co) 69, not all in Brighton & Hove
Walter R Booth & Theo Frenkel (for Natural Colour Kinematograph Co) 8

• 1912

• Three more cinemas open during the year, two of them purpose-built, bringing the total number of active cinemas to 16 by the year end. The initial cinema building phase now ends.
 January 31  Hove Cinematograph Theatre opens at 1 Western Road, Hove.
 March  Brighton Corporation is reported by The Cinema News and Property Gazette to be using a series of cinematograph films to promote its use of trolley buses to other towns.
 April 6  Palladium Cinema opens in the former Alhambra Opera House and Music Hall at 85 King's Road, Brighton.
• Imperial Picture Palace is opened by George Bloch at 5 St James Street, Brighton. Bloch also owns the Coronation Cinema.

 December  Martin Thornton, in collaboration with the Natural Colour Kinematograph Company, makes In Golliwog Land, a colour film mixing live action and puppet animation.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove in 1912
G A Smith 1
Theo Frenkel/Bouwmeester (for Natural Colour Kinematograph Co) 17, not all in Brighton & Hove
Walter R Booth & Theo Frenkel (for Natural Colour Kinematograph Co) 1
           Brightonia 2

• 1913

Auguste van Biene

 January 23  Auguste van Biene, the writer and star of The Broken Melody, filmed at Esmé Collings in 1896, dies on stage at the Brighton Hippodrome while performing the cello recital in Act 2 of The Master Musician.
F L Lyndhurst

• Sunny South Film Company is formed by F L (Leonard) Lyndhurst [right] and local comedian and Shoreham resident Will Evans at Shoreham on the Sussex coast west of Brighton. The Fort was built c.1790s as part of the nation's defences against possible invasion by Napoleon, known as 'Palmerston Follies'. It is used as a film studio by Sunny South Film Company. The area surrounding the daylight-only studio becomes popular with film and music hall artistes and people with theatrical and film connections who build bungalows along Old Fort Road,Bungalow Town many constructed from old railway carriages, giving the name Bungalow Town [left] to the area.

• Hove borough council passes a set of by-laws to regulate cinemas in the town. Among them are requirements to close all cinemas in the event of an outbreak of an infectious disease and for children up to the age of 14 to be accompanied by an adult in the evenings (see also 1931 below). An existing ban on Sunday opening of cinemas is retained but is challenged by exhibitors, who argue that no such ban applies in Brighton. (See also March 1915.

• Empire Electric Theatre (formerly the Novelty Electric Theatre) at 27 West Street, Brighton closes.

film listing link Films made in Brighton & Hove and Shoreham in 1913
Brightonia 2
Sunny South Film Company 3

 

• 1914

• G A Smith's patent on the Kinemacolor colour film process, the basis of a rigidly controlled monopoly, is challenged by William Friese-Greene. The court rejects his claim but he appeals to the House of Lords.

• The Gem Electric Cinema 'penny gaff' at 36a London Road closes.

film listing link Films made in Shoreham in 1914
Sunny South Film Company 4

 

• 1915

 February  The House of Lords finds against the Natural Colour Kinematograph Company in Friese-Greene's patent case against Kinemacolor.

 March  The Divisional Court of Appeal upholds Hove Borough Council's ban on Sunday cinema screenings.

 April 26  The Patent Office revokes G A Smith's colour kinematography patent (26,671) by order of the High Court.

Shoreham Beach Studio

• Shoreham Beach Film Studio, an all-glass structure, is built on the shingle foreshore at West Beach, at the western end of Shoreham beach by F L Lyndhurst's Sealight Film Company, successor to Sunny South. It measures 75 ft x 45 ft and is up to 30 ft high. He acquires the site from the Easter family of Lancing for £200, The children's home at King's Gap is now on the site, which marked with a plaque.

film listing link Films made in Shoreham in 1915
Sunny South Film Company 2

 

• 1916

• Shoreham Beach Film Studio is sold to the Olympic Kine Trading Company, which makes no films at the site.

• Imperial Picture Palace 'penny gaff' at 5 St James Street, Brighton closes.

film listing link Films made in Shoreham in 1916
Sealight Film Company 1

 

• 1917

• Film activity in the area comes to a standstill. This is the first yeat since 1896 when no films are made.

• 1918

• Shoreham Beach Film Studio is acquired by Progress Film Company, previously based in Manchester. Sidney Morgan is the principal producer/director of the 17 films made at Shoreham.

• 1919

film listing link Films made in Shoreham in 1919
Progress Film Company 3

 

• 1920

film listing link Films made in Shoreham in 1920
Progress Film Company 9

 

• 1921

• Regent Cinema opens at the corner of North Street and Queen's Road, Brighton.

film listing link Films made in Shoreham in 1921
Progress Film Company 3

 

• 1922

• Parts of the Shoreham Film Studio site are destroyed by fire. The site is marked by a plaque placed on the wall of a modern church hall. The view of the site [below] shows how close the studio was to the beach, which is behind the grassy ridge to the left of the photograph. A plaque is above the car at the right of the picture.


[Photos: David Fisher, Terra Media]

film listing link Films made in Shoreham in 1922
Progress Film Company 2

 

• 1923

• Producer/director Walter West is claimed to make two films at Shoreham, one of them Hornet's Nest, starring the American actress Florence Turner, but this has not been confirmed. Otherwise film production in the area has ceased and does not return until 1943.

 

and later . . .

Sunday cinema poster1926 June Hove Council votes (by one vote) against allowing Sunday opening of cinemas. Councillor E E Lyons, proprietor of the Academy Cinema in Brighton and a leading light in national cinema circles, argues that Sunday is the only day many people can get to see films. C V Smart petitions for his cinema, the Tivoli, being a special case at it is on the boundary with Brighton, where Sunday opening is allowed but his appeal is turned down. Alderman Leeney argues that 'if anyone wants to go to these places on Sunday they only have to step across the road and go into Brighton'.
          Correspondent Edward Clifton writes to the Brighton & Hove Herald (12 June): 'This is 1926, not the sanctimonious times of mid-Victorianism. Surely in these days when even the Government is doing its best to encourage what should be a big industry in England and what is undoubtedly a source of pleasure to millions every week, the Hove Councillors should also assist and not discourage the simple pleasures of the people.'

1928 October Hove Borough Council conducts a referendum on Sunday opening of cinemas. Out of 20,890 polling cards issued, 6,579 (31.5 per cent) are in favour and 5,664 (27.1 per cent) are against. Sunday opening goes ahead. [Legislation permitting any local authority to hold a referendum on Sunday cinema opening was not passed until 1932.] [0052]

1929 The Progress Film Company is finally wound up and the site is sold back to the Easter family of Lancing by the liquidator for £250.

1930 August 1 A second phase of grander cinema building for the talkie era begins with the opening of the Savoy at 75 East Street, Brighton.

1931 January 22 Grand Cinema opens in the former Grand Theatre in North Road, Brighton.

1931 Hove is among a small group of local authorities that, within their cinema licensing responsibilities, interpret the A certificate of the British Board of Film Censors as meaning that children under 16 are not allowed to see such films. The ruling is reversed on clarification by the Home Office that the classification is advisory to parents. [0033]

1931 June 24 The Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association conference is held in Brighton. The issue of distribution of British films in the US is discussed, for which Simon Rowson prepared a paper on 'The British exhibitor and Anglo-American relations'.

1932 May 6 Lido Cinema opens next to the railway station in Denmark Villas, Hove.

1933 July 17 Granada Cinema opens in Portland Road, Hove.

1933 December 21 Astoria Cinema opens at 15 Gloucester Place, Brighton.

1934 Hove Electric Empire cinema closes.

1938 September After years in his native USA and almost a decade in London, recently widowed Charles Urban moves to 7 Clarendon Mansions on the corner of East Street and King's Road, almost next door to the showcase Savoy Cinema-Theatre (Map K).

1942 August 29 Charles Urban dies at the Lees House Nursing Home, 12 Dyke Road, Brighton, to the north of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children (Map L). [The numbering of properties in Dyke Road has since changed.]

1948 January 8 midnight Premiere of The Boulting Brothers' production of Brighton Rock, starring Richard Attenborough and shot during the previous year, is held at the Savoy Cinema (ABC), East Street. 

1948 The British Film Institute (BFI) publishes as a pamphlet a translation of an essay by the French historian Georges Sadoul, in which his phrase l'école de Brighton is rendered as 'Brighton School', describing the pioneer days of film-making.

1948-1966 St Nicholas's Parish Rooms, the 1880 red-brick building on the east side of St Nicholas Road, close to the junction with Dyke Road, is used as for film-making by Brighton Film Studios. (Now flats.)

1951 September A plaque commemorating William Friese-Greene is unveiled at 20b Middle Street by Michael Redgrave.

1953 May 9 A temporary television transmitter, installed in three months, is opened by the BBC at Truleigh Hill, north of Shoreham, to serve the Brighton area in time for the Coronation broadcast on 2 June. It uses a former RAF transmitter site to relay signals from Alexandra Palace and continues in use until 1957.

1956 May 26 The Palladium Cinema on King's Road closes.

1957 G A Smith is among guests invited to the opening of the National Film Theatre in London. He lives in retirement at 18 Chanctonbury Road, Hove, until his death in 1959. The house bears a plaque to mark his residence there.

Itinerama (Cinerama in a tent)

1962 Val Guest shoots his film Jigsaw, starring Jack Warner, at several locations in the Brighton area. Scenes for the Barbra Streisand musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever are also shot in the town.

1965 May 13 Mobile Cinerama theatre in a tent seating 1,261 people, known as Itinerama [right], opens on Hove Lawns for two weeks.

1965-1966 Hippodrome Theatre in Middle Street is used as a television studio.

1966 BBC Television makes a programme, It Began in Brighton, about the work of Esmé Collings, G A Smith and James Williamson between 1896 and 1902. It is directed by Tristram Powell and produced by Melvyn Bragg, with original music (written during pre-production) by Georges Delarue.

1967 October 29 In its Theatre 625 strand (season 5, episode 5), BBC2 transmits a television play entitled Edmund Gurney and the Brighton Mesmerist about the deception G A Smith and Douglas Blackburn perpetrate in 1882-83 on the researchers of the Society for Psychical Research, led by Edmund Gurney. Smith is played by Ray Brooks, Gurney by Richard Todd.

1967 December 8 In advance of its official opening, BBC Radio Brighton puts on as special broadcast with news of the heavy snow storm that was affecting the town.

1968 February 14, 18:00 BBC Radio Brighton officially goes on air. The transmitter is on Race Hill, Brighton.

1968 The work of G A Smith and James Williamson is commemorated during the Brighton Festival.

1969-1976 Brighton plays host to the annual British Industrial Film Festival, based at the Bedford Hotel (now Holiday Inn) with film screenings at the Regent Cinema and Brighton Film Theatre and later Odeon Kingswest. The event is later held in Brighton in 1979 and 1981-1984. The BBC has also staged its annual programme showcase in Brighton.

1969 Richard Attenborough's film version of Oh! What a Lovely War is shot on the West Pier and at Sheepcote Valley.

1973 January 24 Academy Cinema closes. The last film shown is The Last Picture Show.

1973 April 14 Regent Cinema closes.

1974 April Eurovision Song Contest is staged at The Dome. Winning entry is Waterloo by Abba.

1974 April After Hove Council's decision to allow an application by Ladbroke's to close the Granada cinema and convert it into a bingo hall, Councillor Mrs Patterson says, 'It seems ironic that Hove, which nurtured pioneering experiments in cinematography, will now be left with only one small cinema.' That single remaining site is the Embassy, right on the boundary between Brighton and Hove. But Hove never had many cinemas. [0053]

1975 British International Amateur Film Festival is held in Brighton.

1978 December International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) holds its 34th congress in Brighton, which is to have a seminal effect on the future study of early cinema, causing the re-assessment of the pioneer period and its films. A collection of 548 films from the earliest days of the cinema around the world are screened before the conference at the Brighton Film Theatre in North Street. A pamphlet about local film history is compiled for the event.

1979 August 23-26 At the 37th World Science Fiction Convention, held at the Metropole Hotel, attended by over 3,000 delegates, the Hugo Award for 'best dramatic presentation' goes to the film of Superman, beating Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the animated versions of Lord of the Rings and Watership Down and the original radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

1979 The mods and rockers riots of 1964 are recreated in the film Quadrophenia, shot in the original locations around the centre of Brighton.

1982 Arnold Wesker writes an original film script, inspired by John Betjeman's poetry, about the last journey of the Brighton Belle train. The film is never made.

1987 May 21-25 First Brighton Film Festival.

1989 September 8-10 Second Brighton Film Festival.

1992 South East Film and Video Archive (now Screen South East) is established as a collaborative venture by the University of Brighton, Hove Museum and Art Gallery, South East Arts, the British Film Institute and the county councils of Kent, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex.

1993 May Brighton Film Festival.

1994 May 8-24 Brighton Film Festival.

1995 June 8 Nynex CableComms launches a community television pilot programme, The Line, on channel 8 of its Brighton/Hove/Worthing cable system. The weekly one-hour programme is transmitted every other hour throughout the week.

1996 To mark the centenary of the film industry, six plaques are put up on buildings in Brighton, Hove and Shoreham by the British Film Institute: at the Melrose Restaurant (formerly the Pandora Gallery), on the Duke of York's Cinema, at 156 (formerly 144) Church Road, Hove (James Williamson's former chemist's shop), at St Ann's Well Garden's and near the site of Shoreham Film Studios and at Dame Flora Robson's one-time home at 14 Marine Gardens. An exhibition about George Albert Smith, James Williamson and the beginning of the British film industry is held at the University of Brighton Gallery and Hove Museum. Hove Pioneers and the Arrival of Cinema by John Barnes, Ine van Dooren and Frank Gray is published in conjunction.

1996 Brewery company Stella Artois provides free film screenings on Brighton beach.

1997 Jewish Film Festival is launched in Brighton.

1998 November 14-22 Second Jewish Film Festival is held in Brighton.

2001 May 24, 10:00 A plaque commemorating the Regent Cinema is unveiled on the site at the corner of North Street and Queen's Road (now a Boots store) by Susannah York for the Cinema Theatre Association.

2002 September 7 Stella Artois provides a free film screening on Brighton beach for the seventh consecutive year. Moulin Rouge attracts around 4,000 people. A screening on the previous evening was cancelled due to the danger that high winds would blow over the giant screen. The event had been postponed from 26-27 July following problems with the quantities of broken glass from drinks bottles in the shingle after a free Fatboy Slim concert.

2003 November 20-December 7 1st CineCity, the Brighton Film Festival.

2004 July 23 Stella Artois Screen Tour begins on Brighton beach with a screening of Master and Commander. Click here to see an animation and 360-degree panoramas of the event.

2004 November 19-December 5 2nd CineCity, the Brighton Film Festival.

2005 October 17 ITV network launches a three-month trial of ITV Local, an online service for individual towns and cities, beginning with Brighton and Hastings.

2005 November 17-December 4 3rd CineCity, the Brighton Film Festival.

2006 November 16-December 3 4th CineCity, the Brighton Film Festival.

2007 November 15-December 2 5th CineCity, the Brighton Film Festival includes screenings of Jigsaw and The Day the Earth Caught Fire, and an illustrated talk by Steve Chibnall, Professor of British Cinema at De Montfort University, on the output of Brighton Film Studios.

2008 November 20-December 7 6th CineCity, the Brighton Film Festival.

2010 May 1-23 Made in Brighton Fringe Film Festival.

 

Acknowledgements and sources
see the Resources page

 

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Page updated 5 October 2013
© David Fisher