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Former 1930's Moderne cinema opens up as new Life Centre theatre
A DOUBLE bill of nostalgia and memories will be on offer when Bournemouth’s former Moderne cinema reopens its doors to film fans.
A full fifty years since the last film showing, the landmark building in Moordown has been given a new lease of life and is once again preparing to welcome audiences.
Now known as the Life Centre, the Wimborne Road venue has a restored 1,000-seater auditorium and will launch with showings of the Hobbit on Wednesday, February 20 and Saturday, February 23. Tickets will cost just £2.50 each, to be bought on the door.
The film showings will be another milestone for the much-loved building, which was a superb art deco style cinema when it opened in October 1935. It could accommodate an audience of 1,500 and was a hugely popular haunt for youngsters and adults alike until 1963, when it became a bingo hall.
In 2008, it closed down again and faced an uncertain future until it was bought by Bournemouth Community Church. They have spent the past three years sympathetically renovating the building and reopening it as the Life Centre – a community and events venue.
Greg Rawlings, operations and events manager, said renovating the building had taken three years, a year of which had been focused on the auditorium.
“It‘s great to have got to this stage,” he said. “We know that it will be good for the local community. So many people have got memories of the cinema, it has a place in a lot of people’s hearts.
“Word is now getting around and people are really excited. It’s exciting for us too because we want to see this building used by as many people as possible.
“As long as we can get the volunteers, we hope to show one film a month. They will be family orientated and the prices are in keeping with that. We might also look to do evening sessions or special themed nights.”
The auditorium, now known as the Harbour Theatre, boasts a 9m by 5.5m screen and a state of the art projector and the balcony still contains all the original cinema seats.
For information about forthcoming films, visit www.lifecentre.biz.
The most beautiful building
The Moderne was designed by Edward G. De Wilde Holding in the art modern style and featured curves, columns, chrome and unique illuminated brickwork. The original carpets and seating were fake leopard skin, which was then dyed green in the 1950s. It also had a cafe and an ice cream parlour with chrome furniture. The principal film in its opening week was ‘Barnacle Bill’ and its star Denis O’Neil appeared on stage at the launch, telling audiences “I think the Moderne is the most comfortable and the most beautiful theatre I have ever been in.”
Within two years, it had been bought by Portsmouth Town Cinemas, who also owned the nearby Ritz cinema. Both cinemas shared the same newsreel and the film would be shown in one venue first before the rewind boy would run across the road and deliver the newsreel to the other.
It also staged local talent contests and skiffle competitions and several big names got their first breaks at the Moderne.
The last film to be shown there was Peter Sellers’ ‘Wrong Arm of the Law’ in 1963.