Revamp plan for UK’s oldest cinema in London given green light

08:03 21 February 2014

The project will see the cinema

The project will see the cinema's period features restored alongside the introduction of modern film display technology (Picture: Tim Ronalds Architects 2014/PA Wire)

A £6million project to restore London’s Regent Street Cinema, the UK’s oldest, has been given the go-ahead by Westminster council, with broadcaster Sandi Toksvig also throwing her weight behind the plans.

The proposals will see the first cinema in the country to host a moving picture show exactly 118 years ago today returned to its former glory.

The venue is widely considered the birthplace of British cinema, after featuring a Lumiere brothers’ film on February 21, 1896, but has recently been used as a lecture theatre, as part of the University of Westminster.

TV and radio star Ms Toksvig described it as “a significant building”, adding the revamped venue would be an asset to the British film industry.

Ms Toksvig said: “This is the birthplace of cinema, where it all started. How fantastic for young people to be able to showcase their work, here, alongside great professionals. This cinema is a place where we can celebrate not just the past but the future.

“This is a significant building and it’s wonderful that so many who are passionate about cinema, the history of film or who have a connection with the heritage and future of the university want to be a part of it.”

The University of Westminster first announced plans to return the historic 19th century cinema in 2012.

Having so far raised £4million towards the total restoration bill, it has also today renewed its appeal for donations, including 150 seat sponsorships.

When the work is completed in April 2015, the cinema’s 200-seat auditorium will reopen to the public having closed in 1980. Work will begin in April.

Professor Rikki Morgan-Tamosunas, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Westminster, said: “The cinema holds a unique place in the history of film-making and cinema, and it is wonderful to see that 175 years since the founding of our institution, a new and exciting phase in its history will begin.

“When it re-opens, the cinema will offer an outstanding venue in which to nurture future talent as well as provide a place where our students, alumni, industry professionals, and our community can come together and enjoy film and our shared cinema heritage.”

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