Explore the city's picture-palaces past and present through a treasure trove of objects and stories from collections, archives and the people of Birmingham.
Part of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery's reopening, our Wonderland exhibition takes a deep dive into how cinema has shaped the streets, social lives and dreams of Brummies over the past 125 years. The birthplace of celluloid and the Odeon circuit, Birmingham has been a cinema city since the very first flickering images astonished audiences in the late 19th century. We (with the help of our brilliant volunteer research team) have uncovered incredible stories - from the first showman to run moving picture seasons at Birmingham theatres (Waller Jeffs), to the UK’s first female film critic (Iris Barry). Plus...
The Odeon Story
We mentioned that Birmingham was the birthplace of the Odeon - Balsall Heath-born Oscar Deutsch opened his first Odeon cinema in Perry Barr in 1930, and by the time he died in 1941 the chain numbered over 250 cinemas!
South Asian Cinema
The exhibition explores the development of South Asian cinema in the city through venues like the Imperial and the Waldorf, bringing to light material from the private collection of the Randhawa family. From the 50s onwards three generations of Randhawas brought Indian films and stars to local audiences, creating an important gathering place for communities still finding their feet in the UK.
The Electric Cinema
Its 112-year existence encompassing everything from silent movies and newsreels to 70s erotica and the boutique sofa experience on offer today. Recently relaunched under new management, Wonderland will share some archival treasures from the cinema's basement.
The exhibition sits around a unique 3D map created by Birmingham makers Space_Play, who will also devise a city-wide treasure hunt, with trading cards and cinema miniatures on offer for intrepid Wonderland explorers.
...and that's just a taster.
Alongside the exhibtion we'll launch a programme of walks, events and special screenings across the city, kicking off with our sixteenth Flatpack Festival in May.
For more information about Wonderland, head to our project page.
Wonderland is presented by the Birmingham 2022 Festival, supported by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, produced by Flatpack Festival.