Early vision for Birmingham’s Electric Cinema & Station Street unveiled by developers

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Developers have unveiled their early vision for the historic Electric Cinema on Station Street in Birmingham city centre

Birmingham residents have finally been offered a glimpse of what the future could hold for The Electric cinema.

Property developer Glenbrook last week shared an early vision for the UK’s oldest working cinema, based on Birmingham’s historic Station Street, at a public session.

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The future of the iconic cinema has been uncertain since its closure in February, inspiring a high-profile campaign to ‘save’ the street which has been backed by Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne and other stars.

However, Glenbrook has recently said it has ambitions of ‘re-inventing’ The Electric and seeing it survive another century – an endeavour that could be supported through the delivery of built-to-rent homes in a tower block.

It also revealed aspirations, by working with key partners such as Birmingham City Council, of seeing Station Street transformed into the “heart of a wider cultural walk”.

Glenbrook is the leaseholder for 43-45, 47 and 51-55 Station Street, which includes The Electric Cinema and adjacent buildings but not The Crown or The Old Rep. At this stage, Glenbrook has said it has not yet met with the council’s planning officers to start a formal pre-application process.

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“We will not put ourselves under any undue time pressure, as we know we need to take as much time as we need to get to the right solution which will also be influenced by the risk of listing,” they said.

Here are five things we learnt from Glenbrook’s early vision for Station Street.

1) Vision for The Electric

Glenbrook said its ambition is to ensure The Electric can survive for another century as a “thriving destination” for independent cinema and culture.

They argued that the building’s condition, design, layout and size all work against its adaptation to modern standards.

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“The Electric has evolved through time to survive – built, rebuilt, and adapted on multiple occasions,” they continued. “We believe it needs to evolve again, to survive and thrive for another century.

“Such a change could deliver a flagship focal point for film in the city, and a cultural catalyst that not only re-invigorates The Electric but enables a vibrant and successful future for the whole of Station Street.”

Early vision unveiled for The Electric Cinema on Station Street in BirminghamEarly vision unveiled for The Electric Cinema on Station Street in Birmingham
Early vision unveiled for The Electric Cinema on Station Street in Birmingham | LDRS

2) Independence ‘will remain critical’

Sharing further details on its vision for The Electric, Glenbrook said it wanted to create a space which supports a purpose-built venue and safeguards independent film.

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“This should include an enhanced cultural offer, which may involve more than two high-quality screens, and a comprehensive food and beverage offer,” it said. “This would help provide a critical mass of customers to sustain The Electric as an independent commercial operation.”

They went on to say that independence “will remain critical” adding: “It is not our intention to work with a corporate cinema chain and we will collaborate with local partners to identify potential opportunities.”

3) Tall building ‘could provide necessary investment’

Glenbrook also said that the investment needed to support its ambition for a thriving Electric cinema and ‘cultural hub’ at Station Street is “significant”.

With that in mind, its plan could also include the delivery of new homes within a tall building, which it said could allow “something special” to be delivered at The Electric and Station Street. “No decision on the exact size, scale, and design of this element has been made,” it said. “Whilst we have looked at various options, nothing has progressed beyond an initial concept.”

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Electric Cinema Birmingham on Station Street todayElectric Cinema Birmingham on Station Street today
Electric Cinema Birmingham on Station Street today | Tristan Potter / SWNS

4) ‘Cultural quarter’

The vision for The Electric could also help enable the “reinvention of the whole of Station Street,” Glenbrook said. “Working together, we can return the street to the vibrant cultural avenue we know it has the potential to be, and once was,” they continued.

“Whilst we can’t do it alone, there is an opportunity to create a vibrant cultural quarter anchored by Station Street. This would be aligned with the City’s Our Future City Plan.”

5) Will the fabric or façade of The Electric be retained?

No solution has been ruled in or out, according to Glenbrook. “We want to work with local partners to work through potential options and come up with the best solution, but one which must be deliverable from an investment perspective and offers a genuine long-term solution to ensuring The Electric can remain an independently operated cinema,” it said.

“The Electric has constantly evolved to survive, having been constructed, reconstructed, and altered on multiple occasions – this is part of its character and history. It may need to change again.”

They added that a new façade paying homage to the original Art Deco design could be the best solution due to the condition of the building.

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