Lewisham’s lost cinemas

Lewisham is the last London borough without a cinema. But, back in the 1930s, there were over twenty venues showing films! This page gives more information about some of the cinemas that used to exist throughout the actual borough, including Lewisham Central, Lee, Catford, Downham, Sydenham, Hither Green, Forest Hill, Brockley, Deptford and New Cross.

Lewisham central

Obelisk Cinema Lewisham

The Obelisk, 12 Loampit Vale, Lewisham. Opened in 1912, closed in 1923. Now the site of the Lewisham main bus and rail station.

Gaumont/Odeon Lewisham

Gaumont Palace, 1-5 Loampit Vale. Opened in 1932, later renamed Odeon, closed in 1981 and demolished in 1991. The largest cinema in Lewisham, it initially had 3050 seats.

Prince of Wales Cinema Lewisham

Prince of Wales Cinema, 210 Lewisham High Road. Opened in 1922, closed in 1959 and later demolished.

Kings Hall Lewisham

King’s Hall, 15 High Street, Lewisham. Opened in 1912, bomb-damaged during the second world war. Later known as the Rex Cinema, then Studio 6 & 7. Closed in 1986 and was later demolished. A new house and an access road (Kings Hall Mews) were built on the site.

Studio 6-7 Lewisham

Rex Cinema, later renamed Studios 6/7, 15 Lewisham High Street. Opened in 1950, closed in 1986 and demolished in 1988.

Catford

Eros Hippodrome cinema Catford

The Eros Cinema, 135-137 Rushey Green, Catford. Opened in 1952 in what used to be known as the Hippodrome (which also showed films between 1931 and 1933). Closed in 1959 and was demolished in 1960. The Eros House now sits on the cinema’s location.

Electric Picture Palace Catford

The Electric Picture Palace, 8 Sangley Road in Catford. Opened in 1909. It closed in 1914, the building was demolished in the 1990s and replaced by a bloc of flats.

Deptford

Odeon Deptford

The Deptford Odeon was opened in 1938 on the site of a former the cinema, the Palladium. One of Lewisham’s largest cinemas, the Deptford Odeon had a capacity of ca. 1700. It closed in 1970 and was demolished in 1988. Shops and flats have replaced it.

Broadway New Cross

Broadway Theatre, 496 New Cross Road in Deptford. Converted into a cinema in 1911. In 1955, it was renamed the Century Cinema. It closed in 1960. Demolished in 1963, the theatre was replaced with a row of shops.

Empire New Cross

The New Cross Empire, 483-489 New Cross Road. Closed in 1954 and later demolished. Currently a hand car wash business.

Brockley

Ritz Brockley

The Ritz, 7 Coulgate Road in Brockley. Opened in 1913 as the Brockley Picture Theatre. Later used to be known as Giralda Cinema and New Palladium Cinema. Closed in 1960 and demolished. Now a MOT centre.

Forest Hill

Stanstead Picture Palace, Forest Hill

Stanstead Picture Palace, 12 Wastdale Road in Forest Hill. Opened in 1913, it had a capacity of 825. Later known as the Astoria Cinema, Balmoral Cinema and New Astoria Cinema. Closed in 1955, demolished and replaced with housing.

Sydenham

Queen's Hall Sydenham

The Queen’s Hall Electric Theatre, formerly 22-23 Empire Parade in Sydenham. Opened in 1910. Later re-named the Classic Cinema, then the Naborhood Cinema. Closed in 1943 after being damaged by bombing. Demolished in 1953. The site is now occupied by the the Post Office and the Narborhood Centre (whose name was inspired by the cinema’s last name).

State Cinema Sydenham

The State Cinema, Sydenham Road. Opened in 1931 with a capacity of over a thousand, taken over by the Granada chain in 1949 and then renamed the Granada, it closed in 1971 and was later demolished. The site, on the corner of Girton Road, is now occupied by Somerfield.

Lee

Imperial Picture Theatre Lee

The Imperial Picture Theatre, 404/408 High Road in Lee. Opened in 1913. Later renamed the Savoy and the Pullman Cinema. Closed in 1959 and demolished in 1986. The Sainsbury’s supermarket stands on the site today.

Downham

Splendid Cinema Downham

The Splendid, Bromley Road, Downham. Opened in 1930. It had a capacity of 2244. Closed in 1957, the site is now occupied by a petrol station.

Map of former cinemas in Lewisham

Map of cinemas in Lewisham

This interactive map shows the locations of a most old cinema venues in Lewisham with further information, pictures and links.

If you are interested to learn more about the history of cinemas in Lewisham, we recommend two booklets written by local historian Ken George  (Two Sixpennies Please: Lewisham’s Early Cinemas and The Big Five: Lewisham’s Super Cinemas, available from the Lewisham libraries) as well as cinematreasures, the London Project and, for archive photographs, dusashenka.

All photos and photomontages are copyrighted. With thanks to the Lewisham Local History & Archive Centre and dusashenka.

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128 thoughts on “Lewisham’s lost cinemas

  1. Electric Palace closed as a cinema in dec 1954, it was converted into a supermarket, and, in the early 60’s changed to bingo. In 1989 the Palace became a snooker hall, which I believe is the case today. Highly unlikely ” TITANIC” appeared there though.

  2. It’s now finally here Empire cinema is now opened in the London borough of Waltham Forest Walthamstow. it’s just now you Lewisham the only London borough without a cinema I hope you guys get one soon good luck in the future it would be nice to see one open up there hopefully soon

  3. Checking on old pics of the Rex, the lampost outside the LH front has never changed, pre war, 50s etc, even after the cinema had gone the same lampost remains by the road name. Did you ever receive my pics of early lewisham cinemas ?

    • I remember Studio 6/7 well.i saw a film I wanted to see advertised in that week’s local paper. but when I turned up at the cinema the entrance doors were chained close and the lobby cards for the film i wanted to see were placed in their frames. talk about a hasty decision to close!

      • Hi Tina, Yes I can remember well The Studio – 6 & 7 that was also previously called; The REX. The Studio 6 & 7 was the first Picture House in Lewisham, and for miles around to have within it Two Cinemas Screens showing different types of Films and Movies at the same time. The main differences between the management of when this Cinema were called once The Rex, was that you could see during this period Films that were re-released, since I can recall back when after seeing my first James Bond Film, (Goldfinger in 1964), which was the 3rd in the Bond Series, when the following week at; The Rex they were showing a Double-Feature catch-up with – Dr No, and From Russia With Love which are both Bond Films 1 and 2 in The James Bond Film Series. However, when The Studio 6 & 7 replaced the former Rex Picture House, Studio 6, or 7 would be more inclined to show more of an Adult X Rated type of Movie upon its One Screen while upon its Second Screen you would have a more Family type of Film being shown. It is true to say, that The Studio 6 & 7 did show many more different selections of Films of those days that were not being otherwise shown elsewhere around in any other near by Cinemas or areas back during those days. If I went too The Studio 6 and 7, it would always be upon a Sunday Afternoon for the weeks first Film sitting of what was on for that week.

  4. Check back Linda, prior to Studio 6 7 it was the Rex from 1951′ always billed as “lewisham’s luxury cinema”, and prior to that it was the Kings Hall until it was bombed in,I think 1941.

  5. These are absolutely fascinating and just show the vandalism that has gone on over the years. I have lived here since 1990 and am struggling to remember the Gaumont Palace which must have still been standing then. Hopefully it will come back, but that area is so different now, and changing again.

  6. I grew up in Catford during the War & knew most of the above Cinemas/Theatres. Haven’t been back since 1970’s. The Queen’s Hall, about 3 ‘shops’ along from The Hippodrome (and with a Turner’s Sweetshop next door to the left?) seems to be missing from your list. 1 other Cinema which you may not know of is The Rivolli Cinema (now The Rivolli Ballroom) just alongside the railway bridge where the B218 crosses.

    • My Dad went to the Queen’s Hall, Rushey Green many times and well remembers, when people were allowed to smoke in the cinema, by late in the evening you could hardly see the screen for the smoke rising from the stalls!

    • I think Hilary is thinking of the New Cross Kinema at the corner of Clifton Rise and New Cross Road – opposite the Marquis of Granby p.h. My friend’s parents were uniformed members of the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade and were on duty most Saturday evenings at the New Cross Kinema and we used to be admitted for nothing and got to sit in the back stalls – amongst the courting couples! There was an Irish dance club upstairs in the same building which I only got to visit once. As it didn’t have a bar we had to get a “pass out” to visit the pub across the road. Memories, memories. The late Spike Milligan mentions this cinema and having to walk home to Riseldene Road,Honor Oak after performing in a dance band there.

  7. I remember the Odeon Lewisham well. There was a “Victor Sylvester” dance studio in the building…The windows at the front of the cinema were in fact the dance-studio’s windows. I enjoyed very many wonderful evenings learning to dance, treading on toes end popping round to the Roebuck dive-bar (behind the cinema) in the interval, to find some Dutch courage to ask a partner if I could take her home after the dance)!!

  8. A couple that appear to be missing…The Park Cinema, Hither Green Lane also the Queen’s next to the old Lewisham Hippodrome. oh! the Plaza, Catford.

  9. Hi, I’ve been living over in Germany now for over 40 years but in 1965 I queued up all night in front of the Odeon Lewisham to get tickets for the Beatles concert there. Needless to say you couldn’t hear anything for all the screaming. I went there a few years ago to show it to my wife but all I found was a burnt down parking lot. Very sad. Apart from that as a kid I was a member of the Saturday morning ABC childrens club in Catford. I still have the anthem in my head. “We are the children all well known as, minors of the (very loud) A B C. etc. Fond memories.
    Bill

  10. I used to be an usherette at the Lewisham Odeon late 60’s. I remember I had to on odd occasions climb onto the roof to the projectionist ,who had fallen asleep and the film needed to be changed. I also remember if we heard the tune of “three blind mice” we had to go to the fire exit ,as that was to let the staff know there was a fire in the cinema. Luckily there was no fires .
    I have some old 1950’s Odeon programmes.

    • Hi – I was Assistant Manager in 1968, when the terrific Chris Mott was Manager. Such a wonderful Cinema – we did have fun, particularly with the Stage Shows – I remember Little Stevie Wonder, as he was then billed. What a performer! Also, Joe Cocker – who was not at all happy at being renamed ‘Joe Cockle’ on the huge external posters. I travelled home to N West London every night and remember being snowed-up on the bridge, outside Charing Cross Station for a few hours. Happy days 💫

  11. Regarding the Queen’s cinema in Catford. Does anyone remember the really short commissionaire who was a Marty Feldman lookalike (each eye looking in a different direction?). I remember a Saturday night in the late fifties when a pal and I were in one of the queues outside (probably the one and sixpennies) when he came out to the front and suddenly saw someone he new across the main road, he gave them a wave, problem was each queue thought he was looking at them them, All hell let use when both queues made a rush to get into the cinema (after all it was tipping it down at the time). Not sure if he survived or was trampled to death but it took quite a while to sort out the mess. Have another incident to tell at a later date.

  12. Thank you all for these comments that bring my youth back to life with so much pleasure and nostalgia. I spent so many happy times in the Odeon Lewisham ‘(cinema and dance-hall) and knew the area well. I was from Poplar and so, for me, it was quite posh in Lewisham, at the time.

    • Yes, Robert, I do. It was called “The Broadway” and because it had previously been a theatre there were pillars throughout the auditorium, however one soon adjusted if unfortunate enough to be sat behind one. Epic adventures screened there in my time were “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “The Quatermass something or other” with Brian Donleavy. When the script alluded to the creature having been seen in the Deptford area, an enormous cheer went up in the cinema! I worked in Deptford High Street at the time and so it was convenient to go there after work

      • It was closed when me & my brother play inside we found reels of old films which we unravelled great fun ,gained access at the rear in Tanners hill no seating stage still in place fairly derelict .Live local in Malpas rd. Laburnum hse

  13. In July 1912 an application was made to the London County Council to open an Open Air Cinema, with capacity for 430 people, in the large rear garden of “The Priory”, 410 High Street, Lewisham, but it was refused on the advice of the London Fire Brigade, which was concerned about crowds leaving from the narrow rear entrances.,

  14. Great page well done, most brought back memories of times gone by, I know it’s progress but I would like to think some of these great buildings could have been saved, a carwash replaced one of these buildings really?
    how sad, once again great photos.

  15. What a terrific Site! I love the pop-up reminders – genius! I was Assistant Manager at the Odeon, in 1968. Happy days. Thank you🙏🎥

  16. Does anyone remember the tiny Park Cinema located near the George Lane entrance to Mountsfield Park? In my childhood days when I then lived in Catford, it was classed as a ‘Tuppenny Rush’ cinema, or more than likely a ‘Penny Dreadful’ as that’s all it cost to get in – unless you got a pal to open an emergency door to let you in for nothing. We watched mostly old westerns and Roy Rogers featured in many. Great fun. From the top of Mountsfield Park I watched the Crystal Palace burn down in 1936.
    This is a great site, it brought back a lot of fond memories for me.

    • I remember the Park cinema well. In the 1950’s I was living with my parents in George Lane, in the flat below us was a young lad that was the trainee projectionist at the cinema, every week he would give me complimentary tickets to watch all the films. By this time the cinema was really run down (it was what we called one of the bug hutches). When it did close down it became a shop selling sailing gear (not the best of areas to sell this kind of thing) handy for the hospital. I am now eighty one, born the same year as the Crystal Palace burnt down, if you remember seeing it burn down you must be in your late eighties, my mother watched the Palace destroyed with me in her arms (6 months old). The irony being my Great Grandfather helped to re-build the structure when it was moved from Hyde Park to Sydenham and there was I present at it’s demise.

      • It’s not selling sailing stuff now, but was in the 1990s. Was then operating as a play centre I think, but will have a look when I go past later. It’s interesting to hear the story of these places.

    • Hi Bill. I lived in Theodore Rd and went to the Park cinema in the 1950’s. Loved watching the films and still do. Do you remember that there was concerts in Mountsfield Park I guess sort of end of pier entertainment. By the way I went to Beacon Road school with Diane Munns who also lived in George Lane, any relative? I am still in touch with her we are both 76
      Jane Wilson

      • Hi Jane. In spite of the uncommon Munns surname, we had no relatives in the Catford area. Our origins were from Lambeth/Kennington boroughs. If your friend Diane has connections there I would be interested. I certainly remember the band stand and concerts held around it – very popular. My school was Plassey Road (infants/junior) now a supermarket I believe, then Catford Central in Brownhill Road. My other favourite recollection was the Hippodrome when it was still a stage for music halls, performers and occasional circus shows. We could only afford ‘the Gods’ seats up many flights of stairs.

  17. Yes John, I’m 93 now and spent 9 years living in Laleham Road until 1939. Publlc transport, especially trams, made getting around so easy. Cinemas played a big part in the outdoor entertainment of all ages and there are few among those listed on this site I haven’t visited. For indoor entertainment of youngsters our ‘radio’ was powered by a crystal, and we couldn’t afford the licence so the aerial went unseen along the clothes line. Had great fun with Radio Luxemburg once you got the cat’s whisker in the right place!

    Back to the Park Cinema, I seem to remember some of the films being from a serial series, with star performer Pearl White in grave danger (like being tied to a railway line with the train coming round the bend) leaving the young audience on tenterhooks to ensure they returned next week!

    Childhood was so different in those days. We went everywhere, unaccompanied, scrumped fruit, climbed trees, explored woods (Foster Woods was a wood), and Whitefoot Lane was a tree lined, unpaved, undeveloped lane. Smart phones, tablets et all, are all very well but they are no substitute for the excitement or adventure of growing up in the great outdoors of those days, in my case practically on my doorstep.

  18. my mum used to sell the ice cream’s at the Deptford odeon, and I remember seeing tommy steel’s film little white bull, at the cinema at the bottom of tanners hill

  19. Prince of Wales lewisham projectionist 1955 1959 I have photo taken from limes grove film showing chine gate Ron ford

    • I went here to Saturday morning pictures between 1955 and 59. After the show one used to exit via a middle left side exit looking to the screen. Many times there were ‘bundles’ when a child squeezing through the doors would trip and all would fall over them from the pushing. Very dangerous! A brilliant waste ground behind the cinema for afterwards! Dennis from Ladywell.

  20. Such great memories of all those Cinemas. Saturday morning flicks,
    Going to the Odeon on a Sunday, queuing up to go in and asking total strangers to take us in as we were under age and needed an adult. Watching the film through again no one got chucked out. Smoking in the Cinema, taking sandwiches if it was tea time , they were great days, glad I got to experience them.

    • I share your fond memoroes. Those very kind strangers, who accepted to take us in, would pay for us too, usually old ladies… How times change..

  21. Saw a very small photo of The former Plaza Cinema in Catford, that became The ABC amongst these above photos, for I use to go to the Saturday Morning Children Pictures there, and I also saw at The Plaza the two longest Film’s that I ever sat through upon their first release being – Lawrence of Arabia back in 1962, and Battle of The Bulge in 1965, and I still have one of those old ABC Cards you could pick up for free when leaving this Cinema giving you details of upcoming Films to see.
    Sad to hear that The Odean in Lewisham has been demolished, for I saw many Pop Artist of The Swinging Sixties there, from Gene Pitney, to The Dave Clark Five, and many other Groups.
    I have noticed a picture of The Splendid Cinema that once stood on Bromley Road, Downham, for it was years after it closed down that it was actually finally demolished, in around The Mid 1960s, for I could never understand why they closed it down so early before its demolition time.
    Used to also go a lot to The Granada Cinema in Sydenham, and afterward’s across the road to the Fish, and Chips Shop. Also I went many times to The Rex in Lewisham, for there was a lot of choices of Picture Houses you could go to in and around Catford, Lewisham, Bromley, and Sydenham every week during my younger days, and I enjoyed every minute of it, for I can still remember that Cinema smell that used to hit you when you entered these old places, followed by Recorded Light Music, and then followed again by Pearl, and Dean Adverts, then followed further by the Trailer for what two Pictures are coming on next week. Those were the Days.

      • My pleasure Greg.
        However, I have a question, that you may or may not know the answer to, as I think I am talking about some small Picture Houses that were closed down when I was a young lad, since I am now 66 years young.
        I have memories of firstly a very small Picture House that once stood in Catford around 3 doors past what was then Timpsons Coach Station,between this location a what was back then The Eros Cinema, but I can’t remember the name of this Cinema that must have been closed down by around 1960, or earlier. The same is also the case with 2 further old small Cinemas that once stood in Lewisham High Street, with one being upon the corner of Wearside Road, while the other small Cinema was almost opposite the one that stood on the corner of Wearside Road, being upon the opposite side of Lewisham High Street.
        The Cinema on the corner of Wearside Road was altered, and re-opened as a large Toy Shop, while the one opposite across the High Street became 2 Shops, with one Shop selling Records, while what became next door was a Hardware Shop.
        There are also 3 other Cinemas that I do remember well being, The Odeon in Bromley, and the small Cinema opposite the Odeon called The Astor, which was not unlike The Rex in Lewisham inside. The last Cinema I can remember going to was The ABC in The Old Kent Road, which was the largest ABC Cinema in Greater London, outside of The City of London.

    • Thanks Greg, I have now worked it out that The Prince of Wales Cinema demolished back in 1959, and known formally as the site of where The Electric Palace once stood was the Cinema at; 210 Lewisham High Street near to and upon the same side as Wearside Road.
      So, that is 1 down, and 2 left to find.

      • Ah yes, great thrill as a 15 year old, or thereabouts, to see my first X films in the Prince of Wales: ‘The Trollenberg Terror’ (laughable) and ‘Naked as Nature intended’ (a bit tame). Ah well, it seemed so daring!

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