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UK’s Oldest Cinema, The Electric, Is Set To Close Doors

The closure of the UK’s oldest operational cinema, The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, has sent shockwaves through the community. Dating back to 1909, this historic venue, nestled on Station Street, has been an integral part of Birmingham’s cultural fabric. The last film screening is scheduled for Thursday, marking a somber moment for cinema enthusiasts and the city alike.

The closure was confirmed by the Southside Business Investment District (BID), expressing their “dismay” at this turn of events. Efforts to reach the cinema’s owners for further details have been unsuccessful, leaving the reasons behind the closure shrouded in mystery.

The Flatpack Festival, an annual event run by Ian Francis, that has utilized The Electric for 18 years, received news that the venue would not be available this year due to the impending end of its lease. Tributes on social media poured in, reflecting the deep connection people have with this much-loved building.

“I have complex feelings about that building related to my time there, but it is a significant loss to the city,” expressed David Baldwin on social media. Dr. Helen Ingram added, “It was extremely popular and hosted the most amazing events. I’m absolutely gutted.”

The Electric, known for its iconic art-deco frontage, houses two screens showcasing a mix of 35mm films and digital productions. Originating from a converted taxi rank, it held its inaugural silent film screening on December 27, 1909. Over the years, cinema evolved, showcasing everything from adult movies in the 1970s to mainstream and art-house films in recent times.

Currently managed by Kevin Markwick’s daughter, Katie, The Electric stands as a historic landmark on Station Street. Formerly known by various names like Select Cinema, Tatler News Theatre, The Jacey, The Classic, and The Tivoli, it reverted to its original moniker, The Electric, in 1993.

The closure prompted a response from the mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, who expressed deep concern over the potential loss of this iconic heritage building. The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has initiated an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the closure.

“The closure of The Electric Cinema is a lightning rod for people’s deep concerns about the future,” stated the mayor, emphasizing the significance of preserving the cultural sector in the region. A petition, signed by almost 4,000 people, calls for Station Street to be designated as a historic, cultural, and civic asset amid fears of redevelopment.

Stuart Maconie, a BBC 6 Music presenter and author, lamented the news, hoping for a revival of this cultural landmark. The outpouring of grief on social media reflects the community’s strong attachment to The Electric Cinema. Plans for the future of the cinema remain uncertain, but the mayor and WMCA have committed to taking concrete actions to address the concerns and preserve the cultural heritage embodied by The Electric Cinema.

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