Order your own mini slice of Birmingham’s cinema history - courtesy of brilliant Brummie makers Spaceplay.
We’ve been so delighted by feedback for our Wonderland exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, described by visitors as “a love letter to cinema in Birmingham” and a “must-see for fans of cinema and local history”.
If you’ve been, you’ll have spotted a big 3D map at the centre of the room highlighting just how many cinemas there once were in Birmingham, created by Spaceplay. The map is a centrepiece not just for the exhibition, but for our whole Wonderland project - we're inviting you to explore Birmingham’s past and present picture-palaces and all the incredible stories associated with them.
There are plenty of ways to do that over the next few months, including a cinema treasure hunt and a brand new online resource where you can navigate through an evolving film and cinema landscape and share your own memories. From today you can also order your very own miniature Birmingham cinema direct to your door!
Eight Birmingham cinemas have been digitally modelled based on photographs unearthed from archives, 3D printed and cast in plaster. The final result is a set of incredibly detailed, gorgeous collectibles - especially if you happen to be a cinema nerd or a Birmingham nerd, or both (like us!) Each model comes nicely packaged in its own black box and includes a collectible cinema card featuring fun facts and little known information about the history of the cinema. Available to pre-order now for £50 per model.
We know you’re dying to know which of Birmingham’s 100+ cinemas feature in the series, so scroll on to find out, or head straight over to Spaceplay’s website for further info and to order:
The last word in opulence when Sol Levy opened its doors in 1919, the Futurist was also the first place in Birmingham to show talkies in March 1929. This led to queues around the block and the loss of the Futurist’s in-house orchestra.
The Tatler (known and loved by many these days as the Electric Cinema) is the UK's oldest cinema - sort of! The remarkably resilient Electric has taken on many guises during a century and more of showing films. From newsreels and cartoons as the Tatler News Theatre in the 30s, to a mix of softcore porn and blockbusters as the Tivoli in the 80s, to the sofa hideaway movie-goers know and love today.
One of the most iconic of the 1930s Odeons, and arguably one of the most influential cinema designs full stop, the Odeon Kingstanding was built just as the company was beginning its nationwide expansion. Still towers over the Six Ways roundabout in Kingstanding.
Part of the wave of ‘super cinemas’ which swept the country in the early 30s, the Piccadilly was reborn in the 70s as Dreamland, offering a mix of Hollywood releases, South Asian movies and kung fu latenighters.
Launched during the silent era with an in-house orchestra, in its 1925 souvenir programme the Kingsway is described as "noble, beautiful, efficient, luxurious and comfortable." It screened its last film in 1980, but despite a devastating fire in 2011 it has had a second life in recent times as an outdoor craft market and gig venue.
The first cinema to bear the Odeon name, the Odeon Perry Barr was built in the style of a Moorish palace rather than the streamlined modernism which would define the circuit. Locally-born Odeon founder Oscar Deutsch had a flat out the back where he stayed when he worked late. After he died the funeral cortege passed the cinema, and all of the staff came out to pay their respects.
A landmark venue when it opened, the Paramount (now Odeon New Street) had the biggest capacity of any Birmingham cinema at the time, as well as a famous Compton organ which emerged as if by magic from beneath the stage. During the 70s and 80s its primary business was as a concert venue hosting the likes of Bob Marley, Black Sabbath, U2 and ABBA.
Built just after the coming of sound, the Royalty opened with Maurice Chevalier in The Love Parade in 1930, before becoming a bingo hall in the 60s. Its imposing frontage still dominates Harborne High Street, and a local group has been campaigning to bring films and events back to the Royalty.