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Report - The Majestic Picture House, Portsmouth - June 2011

Discussion in 'Theatres and Cinemas' started by AnotherMansCause, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. AnotherMansCause

    AnotherMansCause The worth of boast worlds
    28DL Full Member

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    Visited with Olz9181, Chrisr86, robbiekhan and a non-member.



    This former cinema/snooker hall/club/martial arts centre has been closed for a year or so, but it hadn’t really been on our radar until recently. There were none of the usual signs of abandonment, such as boarded up windows and threatening security signs, so we didn't think much about it. It was the activity on 28days that brought it to the forefront of our attention, so we went along for a scout.
    The first time we tried it was sealed tight, but the next time, entry was possible. Sadly, this visit was cut short; the few shots we managed to get can be seen here.

    We went back a few days later and spent several hours inside and got all the pictures we needed.

    When we came to the research part, there was one problem. Our usual medium for finding information about buildings, the internet, was turning up absolutely nothing, other than it used to house the ENSKA martial arts club until it closed.



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    It is obvious from the exterior that it used to be a cinema and this was further reinforced once we saw the inside and the ornate plasterwork that decorated the walls and ceiling.
    As for names, dates, number of seats and the building’s owners, there was a big fat nothing. This meant, for probably the first time in either or our lives, myself and Chrisr86 were actually excited to go to the library and see what we could discover :D.

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    History

    Chrisr86 managed to trace the history of the site back almost 150 years and found that there used to be a brewery on the site.

    Before Peters George & Co took over the brewery in 1886 they had a wine & spirits store on Kings Road in Southsea and tobacconists at Queen Street, Portsea. No mention of these are made after the brewery takeover, so services possibly transferred to the brewery site at the same time.

    At the beginning of the 20th century, the brewery was demolished but there remained a bottling store next to what would be the cinema until 1953.



    The Majestic Picture House opened on the 5th of December 1921 with the film ‘A Yankee In The Court of King Arthur’. It was built under the supervision of Richard Stokes for the huge sum of £50,000 (just under £2m in today’s money). There was seating for a total of 1286 patrons, 816 in the stalls and 470 in the balcony.
    Richard Stokes died in 1934 at the age of 74 and the Majestic Picture House continued under this name until 1951 when it was sold to the Essoldo Cinema chain. It was the Essoldo for a further 21 years until 1972 when it became the Classic, however in 1973 the cinema was to close.


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    The building reopened in 1976 as the ‘Portsmouth Billiard & Snooker Social Club’ and was split between two levels. The tables for club playing were downstairs while upstairs contained seating for 300 people, with tables for match tournaments and exhibition games.

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    The following picture was taken from a local newspaper dated 1975. It was hoped that the balcony would have been incorporated into the snooker hall but sadly it was practically destroyed by vandals after cinema had closed, so it had to be removed. Seems like they had chav scum back then too!

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    In 1982 the snooker hall changed its name to the Majestic Snooker Club and continued in this guise until 1994/5 when it appears to have closed. I have been reliably informed by my (slightly) better half that the snooker hall may have reopened just prior to the building being closed for good, which would explain the mass of snooker tables and balls that have been left.

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    Randall’s nightclub opened there in 1995 and changed to Club Espirit in 1996-97, and then it appears the building was left empty until the ENSKA Keep Fit and Martial Arts Club opened around 2006. A plaque in the upstairs bar dated the 13th March 1994 commemorates the Sensei's 50th birthday so it seems ENSKA was around then, just operating in a different location.
    A whole pile of letters that were never sent indicate that ENSKA closed on the 1st April 2010.

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    We couldn’t find anything relating to the future of this fantastic building, hopefully whoever ends up with it appreciates its beauty as much as we do and wants to see it preserved.

    Thanks for looking :thumb
     

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