Traditional Independent Cinemas/Picture Palaces

After the introduction of the Cinematograph Act which required cinemas to have separate rooms for the projection equipment to help reduce the risk of fire spreading many new permanent cinema buildings were created.


The grandest cinemas were often referred to as Picture Palaces and as these images show they really were very grand buildings. Sadly, very few of them survive across the world today.

Cinema started to move into permanent buildings, often taking over theatres or music halls. Between 1910-1940 cinemas started to be purpose-built taking on the grandeur of the theatres and the film industry in their architecture and being full of the latest technology – they were palaces for attending the pictures – Picture Palaces. Often these cinemas would put on a programme of film, along with live performance as well, this was known as Cine-variety – this site provides a good idea of what it was all about: It was for this reason that the projectionist’s role also included a large number of the same techniques and traditions.

Often the film was part of a wider cine-variety act, where there were acts between the films. You can read a bit more about this here:

Although this article dates back to 2010, it lists 10 of the best Independent Cinemas in the UK and the Cinefiles Series is a weekly article which highlights a cinema of note and only the other day.

With the introduction of Television and later on the Video player these cinemas started to struggle and the decline of the cinema started to be seen. Many cinemas were divided up so that they could show more than one film at a time. These were often not very well done, with bad sight lines to the screens, sound bleeding between the different auditoriums. Others became bingo halls or snooker clubs before often shutting down. In the late 1970s into the 1980s, the cinema in the UK was looking fairly dark.

However, in the last five years or so, since digital technology started to become more common, but also the way in which multiplex cinemas are run and operated, along with a new social interest in local, non-corporate, ‘finest’ companies as a whole has seen a reassurance in the Traditional Independent Cinema, to the point that Cineworld (the only big cinema chain to be listed on the UK stock market) bought the Picturehouse chain (an independent cinema chain which specialised in arthouse cinema content).

Vue cinema Bury opening

Multiplex Cinemas

These are the types of cinemas which we are perhaps more use to since their introduction from America in 1985 (the first Multiplex in the UK was at the Point in Milton Keynes) and this saw the rebirth of the cinema-going experience for the public as it offered more choice through more screens and more luxury through new equipment and seating, along with fewer staff costs. At first, no one knew if multiplex cinemas would work so many of them were built in industrial areas or out of town in a building which was essentially a warehouse with a set of auditorium in them, thus allowing for a quick conversation to another use should there be a requirement to.

Multiplex cinemas were successful and more of them were built all over the country during the 90s and the early part of the new century. There was also the introduction of a number of new cinema chains, including some from America to the UK.

As out of town shopping centres decreased in popularity and the number of new shopping centres back in the high street has become popular, so the multiplex cinemas have moved with them so that it is almost always now the case that a cinema is planned as part of any new development.