The Electric Cinema - A Birmingham Gem!

The Electric opened in 1909 on Station Street opposite Birmingham New Street Station, and is believed to be the oldest working cinema in the country. Closed for good end of February 2024?


Where is The Electric?

The Electric Cinema is at 47-49 Station Street, Birmingham, B5 4DY

 

In brief

The oldest working cinema in the country opened back in 1909 on Station Street, opposite Birmingham New Street Station. Originally as a silent cinema. It under went many name changes and owners over the last 110 years, from The Select to The Jacey Cartoon Theatre. It became The Electric again in 1993.  The last owner bought it in 2004, and had it until it was closed in 2020 due to the pandemic. It reopened under it's new owners in January 2022. But closed at the end of February 2024 as developers want to build a fifty storey tower in it's place.

The ElectricThe Electric reopens on Friday 21st January 2022. Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The Electric - history

The Electric Cinema opened in 1909, and the original architect was Bertie Crewe. It was rebuilt from 1936 to 1937, this time the architect was Cecil E M Filmore. It was later refronted from 1981 to 1982, and again in 2004. A staircase inside dates to 1937.

The Electric CinemaThe Electric Cinema (November 2019). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The Electric opened on the bank holiday of the 27th December 1909, and it was Birmingham's first film theatre. The architect was Bertie Crewe (1860  - 1937). The theatre was built on Station Street, opposite of the original Birmingham New Street Station, and a few doors down from the original Repertory Theatre (now The Old REP).

In the 1920s the cinema was bought out and had the first of many name changes. It became known as The Select, and it showed silent movies.

In 1931 a local Birmingham entrepreneur called Joseph Cohen bought The Select, and screened rep films, before closing in 1932 for a complete refit. This time the architect Cecil E. M. Filmore was hired to deal with these structural changes, and the cinema reopened on the 20th March 1937 as The Tatler News Theatre. Showing rolling news reels from Pathe and British Movietone, along with short films and cartoons.

The Electric CinemaRemains of The Tatler News Theatre remain at the back of The Electric (January 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

After the Second World War, with television becoming more popular, attendances at news theatres declined. By the 1950s the cinema changed it's focus, and was renamed to The Jacey Cartoon Theatre (Jacey came from Joseph Cohen's initials). This didn't last long, and by the 1960s it became the Jacey Film Theatre, mainly showing art house and continental films.

In the 1960s and into the 1970s, they started showing cartoons, then soft pornographic films.

The Electric CinemaScreen 1 at The Electric on the ground floor (January 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

There was a revival in the early 1980s when the cinema was taken over by Lord Grade's Classic chain and it was split into two screens. Many Art Deco features were destroyed when the second screen was added.

This didn't last long and by the mid 1980s it became the Tivoli, showing a mix of mainstream, arthouse and explotation films. The cinema was bought in 1993 by Bill Heine and managed by Steven Metcalf.

The ElectricReels of film in storage at The Electric (January 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Into the 21st Century, the cinema closed on the 12th December 2003 and was put up for sale, it was quickly bought by local entrepreneur, Tom Lawes. After a refit, the cinema reopened on the 17th December 2004. It was restored to the 1930s Art Deco look.

The cinema celebrated it's 100th birthday in 2009, and by 2016 this was recognised by a plaque from the Birmingham Civic Society.

The ElectricPlaque at the Electric Cinema awarded by the Birmingham Civic Society in December 2016. Photo (February 2017). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, all staff were made redundant and were not furloughed. The cinema remained closed throughout the rest of 2020 and 2021, even when multiplexes reopened in the summer of 2020 (then closed again during Winter 2020-21 lockdowns). Owner Lawes later put the cinema up for sale.

By November 2021 it had been bought by Kevin Markwick, who also runs the Picture House Cinema in Uckfield, East Sussex.

It reopened on the 20th January 2022, it will be managed by Kevin and his daughter Katie, after a minor refurbishment, and replacement of the two digital projectors.

The ElectricThe previous digital projector at The Electric (January 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Contact details

Electric Cinemas Ltd

The Electric

Station Street

Birmingham

B5 4DY

0121 643 7879

enquiry@electricbirmingham.com

Project dates

21 Jan 2022 - On-going

Passions

History & heritage, Art; Culture & creativity, Music & musicians
Classic Architecture

Contact

Your Place Your Space

Jonathan Bostock

0121 410 5520
jonathan.bostock@ yourplaceyourspace.com