The Electric cinema in Birmingham is closing for good after 115 years & could be bulldozed - here’s why

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The Electric next to Birmingham New Street train station is Britain’s oldest working cinema

The Electric cinema in Birmingham has closed down suddenly after 115 years of entertaining film fans and could now face demolition, it emerged today (Thursday, February 29).

The Electric opened back in 1909 after being built out of a converted taxi rank and is the oldest working cinema in Britain. Businessman Kevin Markwick stepped in to save the historic art-deco picture house during the pandemic after its future was thrown into doubt.

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He spent an estimated £100,000 restoring the two-screen cinema back to its former glory and it reopened in January 2022. But staff at the venue have confirmed that the iconic building was to close "for good" and could even be bulldozed and converted into flats.

Workers were told a month ago they were losing their jobs after bosses failed to reach an agreement over its lease. A staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "The lease was up and they couldn't negotiate a new deal.

"We were all told about a month ago we were losing our jobs. As far as we know it's closed for good and could be knocked down within 18 months. Today (Thurs) is the last day. It's a really sad day for us and for the city. The place is iconic across not only Birmingham but further afield as well.

The Eelctric cinema next to Birmingham New Street stationThe Eelctric cinema next to Birmingham New Street station
The Eelctric cinema next to Birmingham New Street station

"I don't think the council care too much, they have got bigger problems with the bankruptcy stuff. It's just another massive blow to the city. We don't really know what the future holds for the building itself but we heard it could be demolished and made way for flats, which would be a shame if so.

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"They tried saving the Crown pub where Black Sabbath played a few doors down and that failed recently - now the Electric is to go as well. We had turned a corner as well and were doing quite well by all accounts, so it has really come as a massive shock."

The Electric opened on December 27, 1909 showing silent films with a piano backing. Over the years the cinema has been through several incarnations including showing adult movies during the 1970s before it moved to mainstream and art house films.

A historic view of the the UK's oldest cinema - The Electric Cinema in BirminghamA historic view of the the UK's oldest cinema - The Electric Cinema in Birmingham
A historic view of the the UK's oldest cinema - The Electric Cinema in Birmingham

It has also been named Select Cinema, Tatler News Theatre, The Jacey and The Classic and The Tivoli before becoming The Electric again in 1993. The building was saved in 2004 by entrepreneur Tom Lawes who turned it into a thriving business for more than a decade. The cinema still retains many original features, including an old ticket machine, film projectors and its art-deco frontage.

Dad-of-four Kevin, who also runs the The Uckfield Picture House in Sussex, previously spoke of his hopes for the cinema when it reopened under his ownership. He said "It has survived pretty much the entirety of the film industry, which in itself is an incredible achievement.

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"It is certainly a project and will be an adventure but given our experience with heritage cinema it is one we should be able to complete. It’s a historic building and people are excited about it opening again.

"We hope that we can let it grow and expand. We're just breathing new life into it. We want to make this the go-to place for film lovers in Birmingham We really want to promote the cinema experience for younger audiences so they understand what they're missing as streaming and watching films on TV isn't the same. You can sit at home watching Netflix, but you can't beat sitting with an audience and enjoying stories collectively."

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