Arthur Lloyd.co.uk
The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

The Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Place, London

Formerly - The Prince Charles Theatre

Other Leicester Square Theatres and Cinemas

The Prince Charles Cinema, formerly the Prince Charles Theatre, in September 2009 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Prince Charles Cinema, formerly the Prince Charles Theatre, in September 2009 - Photo M.L.

The Prince Charles Cinema, which now stands on Leicester Place, just off Leicester Square, in London was originally built as a small basement Theatre called the Prince Charles Theatre. The Theatre was built for Alfred Esdaile by Richard Costain Limited beneath a new office block which was also part of the whole scheme. The Theatre itself was designed by Carl Fisher and Associates, and was the first entirely new Theatre to be built in London since the Saville Theatre was built in 1931.

The foundation stone for the Theatre was laid by Flora Robson on the 18th of December 1961, and the Theatre, which is now situated next door to the new Leicester Square Theatre, opened on the 26th of December 1962 with a Canadian Review 'Clap Hands' directed by John Gray, which was a transfer from the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith.

The Theatre's main entrance was on Leicester Place in view of Leicester Square and inside were four mosaic sculptures which depicted Harlequin, a clown, Nell Gwynn and a Fairy Queen, designed by the Hungarian sculptor G. Dereford.

The auditorium, which, as a Theatre could originally accommodate 420 people, was decorated with fibrous plaster work which was achieved by Claridges of Putney.

On its opening the Prince Charles was managed by Harold Fielding who announced that the Theatre would be open all day and all week and would house 'intimate entertainments, concerts and poetry readings.' 'Let us hope,' Harold Fielding and Alfred Esdaile said on its opening, 'that the Prince Charles becomes the home of Theatre, the Arts and Music. May it also become, with its beautiful Leicester Room facilities, a home for those who want to see, hear and discuss the things which go to make up "Theatreland" and its allied arts.' Quote from Mander & Mitchenson's 'Theatres of London'.

The Theatre wasn't very successful however, and although Fielding tried various ideas none of then really paid off. In 1964 he had the auditorium completely redecorated and the stage enlarged so that he could reopen the Theatre as 'Fielding's Music Hall.' This opened in February 1964 but wasn't a success either.

The Prince Charles Cinema, formerly the Prince Charles Theatre, in September 2009 - Photo M.L.

Above - The Prince Charles Cinema, formerly the Prince Charles Theatre, in September 2009 - Photo M.L.

In July 1965 the owner, Alfred Esdaile, sold the Theatre to the Star Cinema chain, and after rebuilding work in 1968 to the designs of Carlo S. Biskupek and interior designer Harold Bartram, the building reopened as the Prince Charles Cinema on the 21st of January 1969 with a showing of the film 'Benjamin.' The stage was removed in the reconstruction so that the Cinema's newly built auditorium could accommodate 358 people in the stalls and 631 in the circle.

The building has been used as a Cinema ever since but fell into disrepute for a while when it was used as a porn Cinema. It's worth mentioning that its auditorium was quite unusual, in that the stalls seating was raked up towards the screen rather than the usual downwards rake of most Cinemas and Theatres.

In 1991 the Cinema was taken over by a new company whose aim was to provide cheap seats for cinema audiences in the West End, and very successful they have been too. The Prince Charles Cinema is alone in being the only non subsidised repertory cinema in the Country and has a very loyal fan base. One of the Cinema's major attractions since its opening has been a 'singalong' version of the film 'The Sound of Music' with subtitles on the screen and a compare who hosts the presentation, more information on this can be found here.

The Prince Charles Cinema was split into two screens in November 2008, one in the former stalls with a capacity of 302, and the second in the former balcony with a capacity of 104. The upper screen now shows premium films and the lower; classic film presentations at cheap prices.

You may like to visit the Cinema's own website here.

Leicester Place in September 2009 , showing the Prince Charles Cinema, formerly the Prince Charles Theatre to the far right, the new Leicester Square Theatre to the centre, and the Notre Dame French Catholic Church to the right - Photo M.L.

Above - Leicester Place in September 2009 , showing the Prince Charles Cinema, formerly the Prince Charles Theatre to the far right, the new Leicester Square Theatre to the centre, and the Notre Dame French Catholic Church to the right - Photo M.L.

Other Pages that may be of Interest