With this being dubbed the year of the cinema and all, I was sure there must be a derelict one near me somewhere! Subsequent research led me to various websites, and I discovered planning was approved for the demolition of this place in December last year. Luckily there's been a delay in work starting, which was kinda convenient. Explored with Swamp_donkey.
This cinema has changed hands more times than my car! It started life as a Ritz Cinema in 1934, and was billed as "Kent's most luxurious cinema" with 1600 seats. It then become the Essoldo in 1954 and it was subsequently split into two screens, although both the stalls and the circle were kept intact, leading to a surprisingly large Screen 1 in the original stalls, rather than 2 smaller screens downstairs with a bigger one upstairs as usually happens. In 1972 Classic acquired the cinema and added a third screen in the restaurant area where, as music folklore has it, David Bowie's parents met each other. This screen had the odd arrangement of a pirescope contraption in order to project the films, as there was no room for a projector room. It was also tiny for a cinema!
Cannon took it over along with the Classic chain in 1982. Subsequently it became an MGM, briefly a Virgin and finally an ABC in 1996, becoming obsolete in 1999, when Odeon opened their multiplex outside the town.
Sadly now the place is a total mess, it's due for demolition any week now once the planners sort out their dispute with Railtrack. Why railtrack? Well a railway tunnel runs directly under the cinema, I can verify this as we could hear trains in the tunnel about every 20 minutes while we were there, a very eerie noise that is. Railtrack have haulted any work on site until the demolition company can garuntee that it won't affect the integrity of their railway tunnel. Bonus for us, because it was supposed to have gone by now!
Leading to the cinema screens, and what was formely the refreshments and snack shop.
Screen 1 looking forward
We were able to get under what would have been the stage area and there were all sorts of interesting bits and pieces stashed away
Ladies rest room, possiblly the most un-touched room in the place (apart from the druggy needles in the sinks )
We then ventured into the projector room for screen 1. This had all sorts of stuff scattered everywhere. Sadly no complete projectors, the local pikies would have had them by now anyway! Part of one remained thou.
Yes that does say 'Billion Dillar Boner' on it. Subsequent googling has revieled it to be a woody woodpecker cartoon, and not a porn film
Screen 2 upstairs in what would have been the circle area.
Through the modern suspended ceiling the building reveils a glimse of it's former glory.
Then we find Screen 3, which was the former restaurant. This was tiny for a cinema screen, and had a post in the middle. Doh!
You can still see the remains of the piriscope projection device on the ceiling, which was very crudely made from steel bars bolted together. I didn't venture too far into this room, the floor didn't look good.
Lastly we needed to find the second projection booth, very odd this as the only access was by venturing out onto the roof, there was no internal door linking it to the rest of the building.
It was stripped totally, apart from this amazing pannel of swiches and dimmers, which I presume must date from the 1930's when the cinema opened.