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The Capitol Theatre, 11-21 London Road, Forest Hill

Later - ABC / Mecca Bingo / Weatherspoon's

The former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Today a Weatherspoon's Pub - Photo M.L. July 2017.

Above - The former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Today a Weatherspoon's Pub - Photo M.L. July 2017.

An advertisement for the John Compton Organ Co., Ltd. mentioning that one of their Compton Organ's is installed at the Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill, amongst a plethora of other installations at a variety of Theatres all over the Country - From 'The Bioscope', August 1931.The Capitol Theatre, which is situated on London Road in Forest Hill, was built for London and Southern Cinemas, and designed in the Neo-Classical style by John Stanley Beard.

The Theatre, which was constructed on the site of three former houses called Prospect Villas, opened on the 11th of February 1929 with a showing of the 1927 film 'Man Woman and Sin', supported by an interlude which consisted of speeches by the local MP and Mayor, and a performance by Edgar Peto playing the Theatre's own Compton 2Manual/8Ranks Theatre Organ, which would remain in use at the Theatre until the late 1950s.

Right - An advertisement for the John Compton Organ Co., Ltd. mentioning that one of their Compton Organ's is installed at the Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill, amongst a plethora of other installations at a variety of Theatres all over the Country - From 'The Bioscope', August 1931.

Although built primarily as a Cinema for the showing of silent movies, the Theatre was also equipped with a small stage, 22 foot deep, for the staging of variety shows, which were shown right into the 1950s. The Theatre also had three dressing rooms for its artistes, and a cafe for its patrons. It wasn't long after it had opened however, that sound equipment was installed for the showing of the new 'Talking Pictures' along with its stage shows.

The ERA reported on the new Capitol Theatre in their 13th of February 1929 edition saying:- 'The Capitol Super Cinema, in London Road, Forest Hill, was opened on Monday evening by His Worship the Mayor of Lewisham, Councillor J. P. Hallman, J.P., supported by Sir Philip Dawson. M.P. for West Lewisham, and Mr. J. Stanley Beard F.R.I.B.A., who had prepared the plans for the theatre.

The theatre is a beautiful building, the main foyer is elegantly designed, and its beauty is enhanced by the facade of old ivory glazed terra cotta, picked out effectively with blue. The auditorium is panelled throughout with dark oak of rare beauty, and the ceiling, with a magnificent dome, is carried out in blue, amber, gold and antique ivory.

The equipment of the theatre, it is very interesting to note, provides for all classes of entertainment, from motion pictures to more ambitious spectacular productions. There is a unique system of combined heating and ventilation, specially designed by the architect.

Music is to be an important feature at this new Cinema, and Mr. Louis Vass, A.G.S.M., has been appointed musical director. His large West End Symphony Orchestra, with Mr. Veto as its clever leader, gave ample evidence of its skill on Monday, and so did Mr. Edgar F. Peto, the organist. whose playing of the John Compton Electric Unit Organ delighted one and all.

The Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill in its opening year, here showing a massive queue lined up for the showing of the film 'Singing Fool' in April 1929 - From The Bioscope, 24th April 1929.

Above - The Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill in its opening year, here showing a massive queue lined up for the showing of the film 'Singing Fool' in April 1929 - From The Bioscope, 24th April 1929.

At the opening on Monday, after the National Anthem had been sung with fervour by all present, led by that charming vocalist, Miss Dorothy Colston, His Worship the Mayor, in declaring the Cinema open, contrasted cinema today with those of years ago. Sir Philip Dawson. M.P. spoke of the Cinema as a great institution, and Mr. J. Stanley Beard. F.R.I.R.A., in a clever and humorous speech dealt with the rush to get the building finished in six months.

The first variety turns billed were The Plaza Boys, and The Four Harmony Kings, whilst the films were "Baby Mine" (with Karl Dane and George K. Arthur) and John Gilbert and Jeanne Eagles in "Man, Woman and Sin."

Mr. Arthur Cohen, who has had a long and wide experience in Cinema management, is Managing Director of the new Capitol, and on Monday handed the Mayor of Lewisham a cheque for 25 guineas as a memento of the opening, which the Mayor said should go to the Children's Hospital. Mr. Lois Lewis is Manager if this new Cinema, for which it seems safe to predict a very successful future.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 13th of February 1929.

The Proscenium of the former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Today a Weatherspoon's Pub - Photo M.L. July 2017.

Above - The Proscenium of the former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Today a Weatherspoon's Pub - Photo M.L. July 2017.

In July 1933 the Theatre was taken over by ABC, but was only renamed as such in December 1968. ABC ran the Theatre for the remainder of its Cinema career but they finally closed it as a Cinema on the 13th of October 1973. The Theatre then remained empty for a number of years until it was eventually converted into a Mecca Bingo Hall, which opened in February 1978. Bingo eventually closed at the Theatre in 1996 however, and it was then empty again for a number of years until it was eventually refurbished and converted into a Pub by the Weatherspoon's chain who reopened it under its original name of 'The Capitol' in May 2001.

The auditorium and stage of the former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Today a Weatherspoon's Pub - Photo M.L. July 2017.

Above - The auditorium and stage of the former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Today a Weatherspoon's Pub - Photo M.L. July 2017.

The Rear Stalls and Circle of the former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Today a Weatherspoon's Pub - Photo M.L. July 2017.

Above - The Rear Stalls and Circle of the former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Today a Weatherspoon's Pub - Photo M.L. July 2017.

A Google StreetView Image of the former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Click to Interact.Weatherspoon's closed the pub in June 2014 and the building was put up for sale, but today it is open again thankfully, and still looking very nice inside and out considering its age and changes of use over the years.

Right - A Google StreetView Image of the former Capitol Theatre, Forest Hill - Click to Interact.

Today the Capitol is a Grade II Listed building, run by J. D Weatherspoon. You may like to visit the Theatre's own Website here where there is also a very nice page on its history with many images.

Some of the information for this Theatre was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website where there are also some very nice images of the building over the years.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

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