As part of the Ashford Borough Council’s Big 8 projects, the planning committee have just accepted proposal to build a fantastic six-screen cinema on Elwick Place, right in the heart of Ashford.
The new development will bring vitality and a fresh buzz to the town centre throughout the day boosting the town’s evening economy too.
As the streets of Ashford continue to change under our feet, we decided to take a look at the much loved cinemas of our past; once a big part of the cultural scene in Ashford town centre.
The Picture Palace Cinema opened in December 1911 and once stood on Tufton Street as the first of its kind in Ashford.
The cinema was designed by architect A.E.Lacey, with a box office facing the street and a Terrazzo mosaic-paved reception hall. The swinging doors led into the wedge-shaped auditorium with the orchestra pit dug-out in front of the screen. There was no public supply of electricity in 1911, so electricity was generated in the building itself.
There were six-penny seats located at the back of the auditorium and three-penny seats at the front. According to the regular cinema goers, an organ was played during the film intervals by a local lady.
On the 11th November 1929, it acted as the hub for the general election. Ten years later in 1939, it was closed down. The Picture Palace became home to the Kent Paper Company until it was eventually demolished in 1962.
The Royal Cinema de Luxe opened a year after the Picture Palace in 1912 on the site many know today as HomePlus Furniture. The seating was laid out in stalls and circle levels and had a 30ft wide proscenium and a shell-shaped roof to improve the acoustics.
The Royal Cinema was known as a favourite spot for courting couples. Ushers sold ten-pence Toblerones during the intervals and scented disinfectants were often sprayed around the isles.
In 1935 the cinema was remodeled and given an Art-deco style make-over inside and out. It reopened on the 14th January 1936 as ‘The Cinema’ and in 1985 it became a twin screen re-named ‘The Picture House.’ Despite the popularity of The Picture House, it was often referred to as ‘the flea pit’ by local cinema goers. In May 1987 it tripled to become a three-screen cinema, but was eventually demolished in January 1992.
The Odeon cinema opened in Ashford High Street on the 31st August 1936 and seated 1,600 people with its first ever showing of Strike Me Pink starring Eddie Cantor.
At the time, the projection room was one of the most up-to-date in the country with a popular dance floor located upstairs and a restaurant too. The page boys, doormen and usherettes wore dark green with white piping, which later changed to dark red and gold.
The Odeon cinema closed on 30th August 1975 with Oliver Reed in The Four Musketeers. It remained closed for a while until early 1976 when it was re-opened as a Top Rank Bingo Club. In later years this then became Mecca Bingo, which is how it is still known to Ashford today.
Click here to find out more about the new development plans for Elwick Place.
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