Capitol Cinema Radford, Nottingham

Standing on the corner of Churchfield Lane and Newquay Avenue in the Nottingham district of Radford is the former Capitol Cinema. Opened in 1936, the building continued as a working cinema for five decades before it closed and was converted to a bingo hall and social club. Laterly, the building was purchased and serves as the Mount Zion Millennium City Church.

In the inter-war period cinema-going became increasingly popular amongst the British public. Entrepreneurs quickly set up local cinemas to cash in on this popularity. Although cinema the industry in Britain was dominated by large players the business was such an attractive proposition that many independent operators set up with one or a small chain of cinemas to serve a local population or area. The Capitol was one such cinema, designed by Reginald Cooper for the small Invincible Cinemas chain.

The more successful operators, such as Gaumont, Granada Theatres or Odeon, were able to quickly grow their business into a national circuit with a presence in most major towns and cities. Yet it is the smaller regional cinemas, that demonstrate some of the most attractive cinema design; without the budget for promotion and marketing as the large cinema chains, the independent operators relied on their cinema's appearance as much as their marketing to draw in cinema-goers.

The Capitol Cinema occupies a narrow site along Newquay Avenue with a small frontage on Churchfield Lane. It is fairly awkward plot, and the cinema was built such that auditorium was aligned with Newquay Avenue, but the main facade was parallel to Churchfield Lane, giving the impression that the facade is 'peeling' away from the auditorium.

The main block of the auditorium is clad in red brick, with two distinct horizontal bands of stone. Each band comprises an upper and lower concave element, with a central convex element. These bands extend the full length of the Newquay Avenue elevation.

Along Churchfield Lane the main facade is dominated by a slender, central tower 'fin' with 'The Capitol' lettering carried on the face of the tower. The use of towers for cinemas was popular for it allowed the cinema to carry their name in a lofty position, clear to see above surrounding buildings. The tower projects from a central, cylindrical section, which incorporates a main staircase, providing access to the cinema's balcony.

The central section has full-width white-painted Crittall-style windows, with distinct horizontal framing, at first-storey level, whilst above is a faience-tile clad parapet. Attached to the uppermost part of the parapet are three, flat horizontal fins projecting from the facade. The fins themselves are formed of three curved, overlapping elements.

The interior of the cinema is divided in a traditional balcony and stalls. The screen is set behind a proscenium arch, with side walls curving out from the arch towards the audience. Above, the proscenium arch rises up to a semi-circular feature with a pronounced lower lip, before rising to the ceiling of the auditorium, again in a semi-circular form, with three troughs incoroporating concealed lighting. The side walls feature intricate decoration, formed of three horizontal wooden fins, bisected by three groups of three vertical fins; the inner two rows of two squares formed by the fins are themselves bisected by two sets of three slimmer horizontal fins.

Like so many cinemas in the 1960s, the Capitol suffered a decline in business, as the increasing ownership of televisions ate into audience numbers. Many cinemas went through a process of 'doubling', installing a floor between the balcony and stalls to create two screens, or worse 'tripling', creating an upper screen and two smaller screens in the stalls. Thankfully the Capitol never underwent such a radical change, and today its auditorium survives remarkably intact.

The cinema continued in operation until May 1968 when Invincible Cinemas Limited were voluntarily wound up (so not invincible, after all), as recorded in the London Gazette. The cinema subsequently became The Captiol Bingo and Social Club, and during that time it received listed status from English Heritage. It closed as bingo hall in 2004 and today operates as a church.

The building was awarded Grade-II listed status on 30 November 1995.


Posted on Sunday, August 11, 2013

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