A romance revived: historic former Redbridge cinema hosts Valentine’s movie night

The Embassy Cinema. Photo: RIBA Collections

The Embassy Cinema. Photo: RIBA Collections - Credit: Archant

The doors to a historic former Redbridge cinema have been opened once more and its theatre filled with the soul-stirring sound of Celine Dion.

Former Embassy Cinema Auditorium. Picture: RIBA collections

Former Embassy Cinema Auditorium. Picture: RIBA collections - Credit: Archant

More than 75 people came to Mayfair Venue, in High Road, Chadwell Heath to enjoy a romantic valentine’s screening of the academy award-winning film Titanic on February 10.

The venue originally opened in 1934 under the name of The Embassy Cinema, also known as “The Gaumont”.

The film screening was the first to come to the venue in 51 years.

A red carpet was rolled out to welcome in guests, who were greeted by members of the Chadwell Heath South Residents Association (CHSRA).

Most guests were east London locals, but some travelled from as far as Cambridge and Wimbledon,

They were ushered through to the foyer where they could paw over a display commemorating the life of Ilford-born survivor of the Titanic Eva Hart, created in collaboration with Valence House and Barking and Dagenham council.

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Refreshments were available, including, popcorn, red cherry-flavoured candy floss and wine.

A string quartet also greeted guests with ragtime jazz and classical music.

Bringing home the event’s oceanic theme, the art deco auditorium of the cinema was illuminated with blue light.

Before the film began, guests were shown a 10-minute documentary detailing the multiple failures that ultimately led to the disaster of the Titanic’s sinking in 1912.

“Most people just think that the ship hit an iceberg and that was it,” said CHSRA’s Rama Muraleetharan.

“Before the ship set sail there was a fire in the boiler room and they never sorted it before the ship embarked, they just hid the part of the ship that was burned from view.”

During an intermission in the film, the audience were treated to the jazz vocal styling of swing singer Steve Conway.

He had travelled that morning from a gig in Wembley Stadium’s Club Lounge, during the half-time break of Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat over Arsenal.

Commenting on Steve’s performance, the group’s Rama Muraleetharan, said: “He was a joy to watch, and brought elegance to the night.”

After the film’s dramatic conclusion, the audience were invited to end the evening with dancing to music from the golden age until midnight.

Among the attendees was Timothy Wardley, a Government Heritage Advisor, Cinema Organ Expert and Chairman of the National Piers Society.

“As someone with much experience in the charitable sector, theatre, performing arts and cinema organ restoration, I was delighted to attend this special event,” he said, adding: “The evening was a great success, hugely enjoyable.”

“I was greatly encouraged by both the turnout and diversity of the audience, reflecting all cultures and ages.”

“I am certainly looking forward to the next chance to go to the pictures at the Embassy!”

The former Embassy Cinema is believed to be one of the most lavish of the eight cinemas known to have been designed by architect Harry Weston.

In 1966, it closed and became a bingo hall.

In 2015, following the closure of the hall, it was transformed into a wedding hall/banqueting suite.

The CHSRA work to advance community development and urban regeneration, whilst protecting and preserving Chadwell Heath’s historical and cultural heritage, for the benefit of the public.

They have a number of upcoming events in the pipeline including an ‘Easter Egg-stravaganza’ and ‘Community Bake Off’ on April 2, a Royal Wedding Tea Party on May 19 and a late-50s themed outdoor movie night on June 10.

The June film screening will take place in Mayfair venue’s car park and the film of choice will be put to public vote, with American Graffiti (1973), Grease (1978) and Back to the Future (1985) as the main contenders.

The group are appealing for volunteers to help them spread the word and help get involved in running future events.

Rama added: “We are a growing organisation, we’re local residents and we really care about our local heritage.”

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