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London cinemas: then and now

Time for a nostalgia-stirring trip to the pictures

By David Clack
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It’s an uncertain time for London’s cinemas – for every stunning refurb or new indie treasure, another characterful picture palace is threatened with closure. Of those that don’t get bulldozed, others change hands, become bingo halls or – every so often – heroically hold on to their heritage. The images below show just a handful of our favourite cinemas in a variety of different guises.

Use the slider handle on the images below to flick between past and present. Got an old photo of London we should re-shoot for our next gallery? Tweet at @TimeOutLondon.

Archive images: Getty

Prince Charles Cinema, 1973

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Quentin Tarantino’s favourite UK cinema has been delivering forward-thinking programming (and cheeky canopy signage) since 1963. Now more than half a century old, the off-Leicester Square cinema still regularly features in our weekly pick of London’s best film events.

Odeon Leicester Square, 1937

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It may not look it, but Odeon’s monolithic West End flagship has been around since the days of Chaplin and the Marx brothers. Seen above in its opening year, it’s still a go-to venue for blockbuster premieres.

The Rialto, 1965

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Opened in 1913 as the West End Cinema Theatre, the Rialto (as it was in the ‘50s) in Piccadilly now houses the Grosvenor casino. The chap in the foreground there is Charlie Chaplin, who’d presumably be looking a hell of a lot more mournful if he could see the place now. 

Casino Cinerama Theatre, 1954

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The 1,600-seater Prince Edward theatre on Old Compton Street has a past as colourful as any weathered thespian. Originally opened with its current moniker in April 1930, it’s seen stints as a dance and cabaret venue (the ‘London Casino’), a club for servicemen (‘Queensberry All Services Club’) and a two-decade spell as a cinema (‘Casino Cinerama Theatre’). 

Gaumont State, 1937

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Films are just a small part of the history of Kilburn High Road’s 4,000-seater art deco beast – everyone from Buddy Holly to Ozzy Osbourne played gigs here before the venue was turned into a bingo hall in 1980. Today it’s the headquarters of the Ruach City Church.

The Plaza, 1953

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Though the lower Regent Street site still houses a small five-screen multiplex (the Apollo West End), very little of the original Italian Renaissance stylings of the Plaza Theatre remains. Still, the Tesco Express in what was once the lobby area means you don’t have to look far for snacks.   

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