Portsmouth’s lost cinemas & Theatres

The Ambassador in High Street, Cosham started life in 1937.On May 6th 1945 the name Odeon was fixed to the facia. As the Odeon it continued showing films until the 1980s when the cinema closed and became a Bingo venue.

The Apollo/Essoldo in Albert Rd was originally called Apollo Kinematic Theatre. The licence was granted on 27th February 1912, it was opened on 6th April 1912 with the film "Vanity Fair" the admission price was 3d (1p) upwards. The cinema at that time had 500 seats. The films were silent and the projector was driven by hand, as there was only one projector it was necessary to have an interval every 16 minutes to change reels as the films were distributed on 1000 ft spools, which at the silent film rate of 16 frames per second yielded a showing time 16 minutes.16 frames of 35 mm cinema film measures 12 inches. The first 'talkie' was shown on 5th August 1929, after a refit in the projection room etc. In December 1939, the licence was transferred to "Associated British Cinemas" and from then on showed the same programme as the Savoy, Commercial Road and The Carlton, Cosham. The cinema closed in 1975.

The Arcade cinema was situated in 'The Arcade' off of Commercial Road, it was opened in 1910. Apart from showing films, a great attraction in the pre-talkie age was accompaniment by a jazz band. Hitler did not like jazz so his luftwaffer demolished it in January 1941 air raid that also took out most of the shopping centre of Commercial Road.

The Bijou Theatre, Fratton Road, opened in September 1910, the queue was only allowed to form in Dorset Street and not Fratton Road. It closed in 1917.

The Broadway Cinema, corner of Hewett Rd, London Rd. This cinema was planned in 1933, but never built. It was originally going to be funded by share capital between The Evening News (The News), and Hampshire County Cinemas Ltd. The shares were £1 each, a lot of money in 1933.

The Victoria Cinema, The First Portsmouth cinema, at the southern end of Commercial Rd, survived until 1960. Moving pictures were first shown at the Victoria in July 1896. Most films were more of the novelty type, but attracted good sized audiences for the first month. Films were not shown on a regular basis until 1900. Talking pictures came to the Victoria in July 1929, and the cinema was taken over by the ABC in 1937. Its last film, shown in 1960, was 'Expresso Bongo'

Castle Picture Palace, Arundel St was opened in January 1910, and closed in 1912

The Classic Cinema, originally Cinenews in Commercial Rd, was sited near Dunn's the hatters on the corner of Meadow Street. It opened in 1936 as Cinenews and was one of those small news-theatres. Towards the end of it's life it ran regular late night shows, usually the horror type. It closed in 1972, The last film shown was The Cruel Sea

Copnor Electric Theatre, Copnor Rd, was opened in 1911, but after several licence transfers, was closed in November 1929. The building became the foyer of the Tivoli Cinema.

The Waverley Cinema, High Street Cosham, was originally named Cosham Picture House, was opened on 7th November 1921. A cafe was built on the first floor, and was known as The Old Oak Tearooms, but did not pay, and became a temporary Cosham Library, until a building was erected in Spur Road. The cinema closed on 13th January 1923, but reopened on 2nd April 1923. First sound film was "The Singing Fool" shown on the 19th March 1930.The cinema was renamed "Cosham Cinema" on 14th July 1930, but closed again in November1930. It reopened again in October 1931, and was renamed "Waverly Cinema" in October 1934. It was eventually closed by December 1939.

The Eagle Picturedrome, New Rd, was opened in 1911, and closed in 1920, the building was incorporated into Wards Bakery.

The Regal/Essoldo, Eastney, originally the Eastney Electric Theatre, was opened in October 1910, the licence was transferred several times between different people, renovation took place between October 1931 and February 1932, when it reopened under the name of Regal, after re-equipping with new Ernemann III projectors and Western Electric sound system. In December 1945, it reopened as the Tivoli (Portsmouth) Ltd, and closed in 1963.

Fratton Electric, Goldsmith Ave, opened in July 1910, but was closed in 1918. In 1919 it was used for whist drives, and then taken over by The British Legion Club.

Gaiety Picture Saloon, 247 Commercial Rd, opened in 1910, and closed in 1918.

The Gaiety, Albert Rd, when opened in 1924 there were steps down to the entrance from the slope leading up to the Highland Road, Southsea Railway Bridge. The cinema was re-directed in July/August 1929, and reopened on 5th August 1929 with it's first sound film. In September 1931, the licence was transferred to Associated British Cinemas (ABC), then in June 1933 the licence was transferred to Regent Circuit Ltd, and then back to ABC in July 1937, to name but a few transfers. The final transfer was to Portsmouth Town Cinemas, so showed the same programmes as the Palace Cinema, Commercial Rd, and the Shaftesbury Cinema, Kingston Road. It closed in 1958, and was converted to Portsmouth’s first supermarket.

The Globe/Rex, Fratton Rd, was opened in 1914, showed it's first sound film in 1929, then closed for redecoration and modernisation in 1936. In April 1937, it's name was changed to The Rex, and the licence was transferred to Tivoli (Portsmouth) Ltd. Like a lot of small cinemas, it became a food/furniture store during WWII, and reopened in July 1945. It finally closed in 1983

The Grand Cinema, Arundel St, licence granted to "Landport ElectricTheatres Ltd" on 25th July 1911, it closed on 6th December 1930. It is now Elim Church

The Empire/Forum, Stamshaw Rd, opened December 1912 as "The North End Electric Theatre", in1913 the name was changed to "North End Cinema", in 1916 it was changed to "North End Cinerama". In 1926 the name was changed to "The Empire Cinema", the first sound film shown was "Sunny Side Up" in 1931. The cinema was closed in May 1938 for rebuilding and reopened in July 1938 then renamed as "The Forum". It finally closed in 1959.

The Majestic/Essoldo, Kingston Rd, was opened in 1922 as "The Majestic", and showed it's first sound film in July 1929. The one thing that sets this cinema aside from the rest, apart from the fact that it's architect was A.E.Cogswell, was that the film was projected onto the back of the screen (rear projection) eliminating the projection beam which would normally pass over the heads of the audience. The interior decoration was different to any other cinema as the screen seemed to be suspended in 'mid air' with curtains behind it that were illuminated by coloured lighting in the interval, Like most A.E.Cogswell buildings it is now a Grade II listed building.

The Odeon Cinema, London Road, North End was opened in 1936, and was the last word in comfort. In 1973 it was made a three screen cinema. This Odeon is still open for business in 2006, but closed in 2008.

The Odeon Cinema, on the corner of Albert and Festing Road, Southsea was builti n 1937, and was also the last word in comfort. With the competition with TV, audiences dwindled in all cinemas, this Odeon cinema remained open until 1985.

The Odeon Cinema, High Street, Cosham started life in 1937 as the Ambassador. On May 6th 1945 the name Odeon was fixed to the facia. As the Odeon it continued showing films until the 1980s when the cinema closed and became a Bingo venue.

The Palace Cinema, Commercial Road, opened on February 21st 1921. In the fifties, films such as Samson & Delilah, and the Greatest Show On Earth had their first Portsmouth showing here. The Palace was run by Portsmouth Town Cinemas, who also managed the Shaftesbury in Kingston Rd, and The Gaiety in Albert Road.

My first job after leaving school was as a junior projectionist at this cinema, I then went on to work at Savoy.

It  ceased operation as a cinema in the early 1980s. It is now a night club, and is a Grade II listed building.

The Peoples Palace/Palladium, Lake Rd, opened as Palace Of Varieties Picture House before 1910. Renamed Palladium in 1921. Licence transferred to 'Cosham Picture House' (Ltd). The first sound film was shown in March 1930. The cinema closed in November1930 when 'Cosham Picture House Ltd' went into liquidation. In 1933 it was reopened and continued until 1937. The cinema survived the war, but lay derelict until 1950 when it was converted to a Bollom Store.

The Plaza Super Cinema/Gaumont, Bradford Junction opened on 1st October 1928 as Plaza (Portsmouth) Ltd. The first talking picture, outside London, was shown at The Plaza in Portsmouth on 28th January 1929. In 1931 the licence was transferred to 'Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd'. The cinema closed in 1984.

The Queens Cinema, Queens St, was opened as Queens Cinema Theatre. The Queens closed in 1931 after the owner committed suicide, caused by the non-arrival of films for Easter Monday, and falling receipts caused by news of the proposed Portsea clearance scheme. In December1931 the cinema was reopened with sound film equipment, then in 1932 was renamed 'The New Queens Cinema'. Despite it's close proximity to Portsmouth Dockyard, it survived WWII.

The Regent/Gaumont, North End, opened in 1924, an organ was fitted in 1928. The licence was transferred to 'Q.T.S Ltd' in 1928, then to 'H & G Kinemas Ltd' in 1929. The first sound film was shown in 1929. The licence was transferred to 'Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd' in 1931. The cinema closed in 1970.

The Savoy/ABC, Commercial Road opened in 1937, with a Compton Theatre Organ installed. It was renamed ABC in 1964. The owner of this website was a projectionist at this cinema. A triple screen was installed in 1982, became The Cannon Film Centre in 1986, reverting back to ABC in 1996. It closed in 2002.

Scala Picture House, Elm Grove, opened in 1917, and was bombed in January 1941.

The Shaftesbury Cinema, Kingston Rd, opened as Shaftesbury Hall showing silent films with an orchestra, then before 1921 an organ was installed. In 1929 was renamed 'The Shaftesbury Cinema'. Licence transferred to 'Portsmouth Town Cinemas Ltd'. New projection equipment fitted (Palace Cinema at the same time), and both cinemas featured silent films and orchestras. Sound films were shown from 1930. The Shaftesbury closed as a cinema in 1975.

Southsea Electric Theatre, Fawcett Rd, after several name changes, was renamed The State Cinema, it closed as a cinema in 1940, was then used to store furniture from bombed houses. later an Embassy Ballroom, then an admiralty store, finally demolished, and finally a block of flats ‘Embassy Court’ was built on the site.

Strand Kinema, Lake Rd, was opened in 1914, it had closed by 1930, it became a skating rink, then Phillips Furniture Store, and was bombed in January 1941.

Tivoli Cinema, Copnor Rd, opened in 1929, it closed in 1941 to be used as a furniture store, then reopened as a cinema in 1945, finally closing in 1952.

The Trafalgar/Rialto, Arundel St, not far from the LDB, now Debenhams, it opened in 1924, it took it's name from the battle of Trafalgar. This cinema had a strong nautical image, with anchors and lifebelts in abundance, and there was even a ship's steering wheel on the pay box. In 1929 after being renovated, the Trafalgar had a name change to Rialto, a title it retained until it was demolished by WWII bombing in 1941.

Troxy Super Cinema, Fratton Rd, opened on 8th December 1936, was used as a furniture store from 1941 and reopened as a cinema in 1946, finally closed as a cinema in 1962, and is now used as a store selling shoes.

Click on a blue cinema name to view an image of the cinema
Eastney Electric Theatre
Regal Cinema 1932 - 1945
Tivoli (Portsmouth) Ltd - 1963
Edinburgh Road, shown here in 1958, was opened in 1891. This
Theatre was known as the Coliseum from 1911 to 1946, but was
demolished and converted to a supermarket in the late 70s
The Empire Theatre
Albert Road, Southsea. The picture was taken shortly after the
‘Kings’ was opened in 1907. Frank Matcham was the architect.
The theatre is still open, providing entertainment.
     Commercial Road
Picture House, Commercial Road, opened in the block known as Speedwell Buildings in 1913,  almost
opposite the then Portsmouth Town railway Station. Speedwell Buildings were demolished by enemy bombing.

The Hippodrome Theatre, corner of  Commercial Rd, and Salem St, opened on 13th May 1907, showed some films during WWI then mixed variety and films until 1933, when it became a music hall, showing films on Sundays only. It was destroyed by enemy bombing in January 1941. 41 years later in 1982,when the site was eventually cleared to make way for redevelopment of the city centre, an unexploded bomb was found, which made it necessary amongst other things to cancel a Bob Hope appearance at the Guildhall.

The New Princes Theatre Lake Rd, On the corner Leonard and Lake Road, opened as Princes Theatre in 1880, burnt down in 1882. Reopened on 2nd January 1892 then was fitted with electric light in 1902. It closed as a theatre in 1928. Princes Theatre (Portsmouth) Ltd went into liquidation in 1930. In 1930, after a major refurbishment costing £10,000, the cinema reopened as 'New Princes (Portsmouth) Ltd'. In 1937 the licence was transferred to 'New Era Cinema (Portsmouth) Ltd', and the following year was transferred to 'South Downs Cinemas Ltd'. The cinema was open until 24th August 1940 when it was demolished by enemy bombs.

Commercial Road, Portsmouth. Frank Matcham also had input
to the development of the Theatre Royal. The theatre is still
open, providing entertainment, since 1900.