Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 22, 2012

Duke of York Picture House (photo by Hassocks5489)

September 22, 1910: The Duke of York’s Picture House opens. It remains open to this day and is the oldest continuously operating purpose built cinema in Britain. When it opened in Brighton, England, it was one of the earliest cinemas in the world. The architects were Clayton & Black. They used some of the walls from the Amber Ale Brewery, the building which occupied the space prior to the Picture House. The façade is new, but some of the rear walls were once part of the brewery. One hundred years later, the building remains largely unchanged.

The Duke’s was always a discerning cinema and in the early years had a slogan: “Bring her to the Duke’s, it is fit for a Duchess.” The name itself comes from a West End theater. Mrs. Melnotte-Wyatt was associated with both venues. It was built slightly outside the center of town and catered to a more upscale audience. This may have helped launch the business and has certainly helped to sustain it. In 1981, it began operating as an arts cinema. Although it was not always used for “class” acts, in lean times it was even host to punk rock concerts. It was rather run down when it went up on the block again.

In 1994 it was purchased by Picturehouse Cinemas. They have invested heavily in the building in an effort to return it to its former glory. When new, the color scheme was red and cream. It originally seated over 800 guests. Even today, one of the balcony boxes remain. However, now it hosts one screen and can seat 283. Today, there is also a café/bar upstairs and a concession space downstairs. There are giant model legs painted like those of a Can Can dancer on one of the towers in the front of the building. These were added by a previous owner and reminiscent of the “Not The Moulin Rouge Theatre” in Oxford. In 2007, a fund drive was held to help raise money to put a new roof on the building. Over £25,000 was raised. The roof was replaced in April 2008. At the same time, the balcony was remodeled.

Clayton & Black was an architectural firm from Brighton and established in 1876. Charles E Clayton and Ernest Black opened their firm and eventually their sons, Charles L Clayton and Kenneth Black, along with other architects, joined. The firm’s first recorded work was the rebuilding of the Blenheim House and was commissioned in 1875-6. They also worked on the Gwydyr Mansions in 1890 and the former Royal Assurance Society office found on North Street in Brighton. They also created a large number of red-brick buildings in Hove. The company dissolved in 1974.

A visit to a cinema is a little outing in itself. It breaks the monotony of an afternoon or evening; it gives a change from the surroundings of home, however pleasant. – Ivor Novello

Although for some people cinema means something superficial and glamorous, it is something else. I think it is the mirror of the world. – Jeanne Moreau

My duty is to try to reach beauty. Cinema is emotion. When you laugh you cry. – Roberto Benigni

The essence of cinema is editing. It’s the combination of what can be extraordinary images of people during emotional moments, or images in a general sense, put together in a kind of alchemy. – Francis Ford Coppola

Also on this day:

Manassa Mauler v. The Fighting Marine – In 1927, “The Long Count” fight takes place.
Regrets – In 1776, Nathan Hale was executed as a spy.
Tevye’s Family – In 1964, Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway.