Diagonally opposite Nottingham’s Theatre Royal, the town’s prestige entertainment building of the mid-nineteenth century, stands the Elite Cinema, aptly and no doubt deliberately named as the city’s premier picture palace of the early 1920s.
This huge building, clad in white Hathern faience with an elaborate display of statuary on its parapet, was designed by James E Adamson of the architectural practice Adamson & Kinns.
The foyer welcomed patrons with a roaring open fire in the winter months, and there were two “swift and soft-running passenger elevators” to the upper levels.
The auditorium, a confection in the style and colouring of Wedgwood ware, with trompe l’oeil arches and portrait medallions, brought a new level of quality and luxury beyond the picture palaces that had opened before the Great War.
The Elite had a magnificent Willis & Lewis organ, “the largest and most complete instrument that has been built for any cinema in the British Isles”.
The building was intended not only to show movies, but to build a separate reputation as a social and business venue. A suite of dining spaces offered catering for individuals and groups.
The Louis XVI Café, white, green and gold, decorated with tapestries, contained a Soda Fountain “of the latest pattern”. The larger of two cafés on the second floor was decorated in Jacobean style. On the third floor there was another large room in Georgian style, “a thoroughly joyous room” decorated in a “daring” white and yellow scheme, and a smaller companion called the Dutch Café, “adorned by a very attractive hand-painted frieze illustrating scenes from favourite fairy tales”.
The entire building was cleaned by a Stuyvesant Engineer centralised vacuum cleaner, “sucking up ravenously every particle of dust and small refuse and depositing it all, via a suction hose, in a central dustbin”, and in the aftermath of the Spanish Flu epidemic, the heating and ventilation system was designed so “that the ubiquitous influenza bacilli and their kin will have a difficult task to make both ends meet”.
It opened on August 22nd 1921, and became part of the ABC circuit in 1935. Though repeatedly refurbished in the 1950s, it gradually lost its prestige as the years went by.
Much of the décor survives because the Elite was listed as long ago as 1972, and was subsequently upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*.
The auditorium and café areas are described in the English Heritage listing [http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/en-457422-elite-building-#.VgQggDZdHcs],
The fact that the Elite went over to bingo in 1977 helped to keep the place in good order, and after the demise of bingo in the 1990s the auditorium became a night-club.
The building was advertised for sale at a price of £4¼ million in June 2015.