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Duke of York's Cinema

Duke of York's Cinema
Duke of York's Cinema

Duke of York's Cinema (1910 to date)

Preston Circus, Brighton  04
operated 1910 to date

1910 September 22 Opened by Brighton mayor Charles Thomas-Stanford, on the site of the Amber Ale Brewery; owned by Mrs Violet Melnotte-Wyatt, proprietor of the Duke of York's Theatre in London, and designed by C E Clayton of theatre architects Clayton & Black at a cost of 3,000. The 60-year lease for thesite cost 250 a year. The opening programme includes G A Smith's Byways of Byron. Prices 3d, 6d, 1s and 2s 6d for boxes; 800 tip-up seats in a carpeted auditorium.
1918 Mrs Melmotte-Wyatt sells the cinema to Jack Channon of Sussex Picturedromes (115 Western Road, Brighton).
1930 May Sound system installed (British Thomson-Houston). [The metal drum-shaped Mazda Fountain in Valley Gardens, close to the Astoria, was donated to the town in 1930 by British Thomson-Houston at the height of the period of conversion to sound.]
1937 Closed on 21 June for complete refurbishment, re-opening on 27 June. Number of seats is reduced to 750 from the 890 previously listed.
1946 New Kalee projectors and British Thomson-Houston sound system installed.
1948 Still 750 seats, prices 7d-2s 3d, continuous performances, three programmes weekly.
1953 Prices 9d-2s 6d.
1956 February 6 First screening of newly installed CinemaScope. Screen is now 28 ft x 12 ft.
1957 Prices 1s 6d-2s 9d. [Sussex Picturedrome Co now at 3 St Peter's Place, Brighton.]
1961 Prices 1s 9d-3s; three changes weekly; booked by P J Drew-Bear
1970s Briefly used for bingo and wrestling.
1976 Acquired by Victory Theatres, owner of the Regal, Bognor Regis.
1978 June Acquired by Pavilion (Chelmsford) Ltd.
1979 Begins a partial 'art-house' programming policy, following closure of the Brighton Film Theatre.
1981 Closes on 12 September but re-opens with a fully art-house policy on 9 October under new management, Rosier Films (P Foster and others), which acquires the cinema for 50,000.
1983 Closes on 7 June but re-opens on 4 August, following acquisition by the Penultimate Picture Palace Company (William Randolph) and refurbishment, reducing the seating capacity to 302. The first afternoon show is cancelled because of a complete absence of patrons.
1994 October 14 Acquired by City Screen and run as part of the Picturehouse Cinema circuit, showing art-house, classic and some first-run films with some children's programmes. It is also used for local film festivals.
2005 May 26 Included in the UK Film Council's Digital Screen Network project. As a result it regularly shows digital screenings, including live relays from the Metropolitan Opera, New York and the annual Eurovision Song Contest.

The Duke of York's, now Grade II listed, is almost certainly the oldest surviving purpose-built cinema in continuous use as such in Britain—probably in the world. The Phoenix at East Finchley, London, which makes a similar claim, received planning permission four days after the Duke of York's opened and had its first performance on 11 May 1911. [ref 0073]
          It was given the same name as the Wyatt's Duke of York's Theatre in London's West End and is almost certainly named (at least indirectly) after Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827), long-time commander-in-chief of the army—the Grand Old Duke of York of the nursery rhyme—and younger brother of the Prince Regent (George IV) and William IV, regular visitors to Brighton.

The cinema had its own excellent website (www.dukeofyorkscinema.com) with a detailed history and local memories but this appears to have been discontinued.

Picture source: (right) Wikipedia [unidentified photographer, assigned to public domain. Thanks!]

Brighton cinema directory

Page updated 17 September 2015
David Fisher