Electric Cinema, Notting Hill

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For information about the Electric Cinema in Birmingham, see Electric Cinema, Birmingham.
The Electric Cinema
Electric Screen, Imperial Playhouse Theatre, Electric Cinema Club
Electric Cinema Notting Hill 2009.jpg
The Electric Cinema
Address 191 Portobello Road
United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°30′56″N 0°12′18″W / 51.5155°N 0.2050°W / 51.5155; -0.2050
Operator Soho House
Capacity 98
Current use Cinema
Opened February 1910
Closed 1993 (re-opened in 2001)
Architect Gerald Seymour Valentin

The Electric Cinema is a movie theatre in Notting Hill, London, and is one of the oldest working cinemas in the country.


The Electric Cinema first opened in London's Portobello Road on 24 February 1910 and was one of the first buildings in Britain to be designed specifically for motion picture exhibition. It was built shortly after its namesake the Electric Cinema in Birmingham, which predates it by around two months. The cinema was soon eclipsed by the huge picture palaces that became fashionable during the 1930s but, despite being shuttered for brief periods, it has remained in almost continual use until the present day.[1][2]

Designed by architect Gerald Seymour Valentin in the Edwardian Baroque style, it originally opened as the Electric Cinema Theatre. During World War I an angry mob attacked the Electric, believing that its German-born manager was signalling to Zeppelin raiders from the roof, after nearby Arundel Gardens was hit by a bomb dropped from a Zeppelin.[3]

Later, in 1932, the Electric became the Imperial Playhouse cinema, though by this time the Portobello Road area had become rather run down, along with the rest of Notting Hill.

During the late 1940s the notorious mass murderer John Christie (1899–1953) of nearby 10 Rillington Place is said to have worked at the Electric as a projectionist [4]

In the late 1960s it changed its name again, becoming the Electric Cinema Club, showing mostly independent and Avant Garde movies. Its fortunes however did not improve and thereafter it opened and closed several times without finding commercial success. It closed in 1993 and thereafter began to fall into disrepair.

Modern era and revival[edit]

Interior of the Electric Cinema Notting Hill, May 2013

In the late 1990s local property developer European Estates and architect Gebler Tooth Architects,[5] who had developed the Travel Bookshop nearby, acquired the site. Four years of planning followed in which Gebler Tooth developed the plan that would re-establish the commercial viability of the theatre. The critical element was acquiring the shop next door which would provide space for greatly upgraded WCs and air conditioning plant and a restaurant.[6]

Sasha Gebler persuaded RBKC planners that consent for a restaurant was necessary to create a viable mixed use scheme that would secure the future of the Grade II* listed cinema in its intended use. By 2001 the combined redevelopment was complete, costing roughly £2 million, funded by local resident and entrepreneur Peter Simon (founder of Monsoon) who owned 191B and bought out European Estates in 2000. On reopening in February 2001 the cinema was briefly run by City Screen of Clapham Picture House but on completion of the restaurant, the whole development was leased to Soho House. Gebler Tooth installed wide leather seats and sofas, a bar in the auditorium and a full size wide screen that mechanically unfurls from inside the listed classical proscenium arch. Cinema, restaurant and an upstairs private members club Electric House have all enjoyed great success since and the Electric is now one of London's favourite cinemas. [7] [8]

It is a Grade II* Listed building.

On June 9, 2012 the building was evacuated due to a fire,[9] and remained closed until it reopened on the 3rd of December 2012.

See also[edit]



External links[edit]