Auditorium for sale

Former Tower Cinema, Anlaby Road, Hull (1999)

Former Tower Cinema, Anlaby Road, Hull (1999)

Earlier articles in this blog have featured auditoria across the north of England that have been neglected to varying degrees by owners who would like to see them flattened – in Bradford, Manchester and Derby.

The November/December 2010 edition of the Cinema Theatre Association Bulletin featured a cinema building with a more optimistic future – the former Tower Cinema, Hull.

The Tower opened on July 1st 1914, designed by the Hull architect, Horace Percival Binks.  Originally it seated 1,200 – 850 in the stalls and 350 in the balcony – and had a café serving “Morning Coffee, Luncheons, and High-Class Teas”.  Latterly, it was reseated to 523 in the stalls and 230 in the circle.

Its history is entirely conventional – sound in 1929, Cinemascope in the 1950s, closed in 1978.  Since then it has functioned as a night club, and is once again up for sale.

Its appeal, however, lies in the ornate exterior, a riot of cream and green faience, with domes (recently reinstated), obelisks, a belvedere with Ionic columns dripping with swags, topped by a bare-breasted female figure that no-one seems able to identify.

Despite Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s dismissive 1972 comment “undeniably debased in the extreme, but the young have begun to like this sort of thing”, it was listed Grade II.  (Pevsner’s comment on the sister cinema across the road, the Regent of 1910, is “built in seven weeks and it shows”.)

Images in the Cinema Theatre Association Bulletin indicate that the decorative interior with its domed ceiling and gilded plasterwork is practically intact.  Indeed, David Salmon’s detailed history of the cinema at suggests that the plasterwork, woodwork and stained glass were cleaned by a team of volunteers in 1981.

The Cinema Theatre Association Newsletter for September/October 2012 reported that, after a failed attempt to restore it as a cinema, new owners have reopened the Tower as Tokyo nightclub with a commitment “to make the most of the beautiful building”.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Fun Palaces:  the history and architecture of the entertainment industry please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2016 ‘Humber Heritage’ tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing.  To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

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