Another piece of Coventry and the UK’s cinema history is due to be destroyed to make way for more un-needed and unwanted student accommodation in one of Coventry’s iconic Conservation Areas.
The 100 year old former cinema has a unique place in Britain’s cinema history being the first cinema managed by Oscar Deutsch the founder of the Odeon cinema empire.
A six-storey building containing 100 student bed spaces and ground floor retail units is planned to be constructed on the site of the historic cinema at 150 Far Gosford Street.
Coventry City Council is expected to make a decision in the New Year. A statement submitted to the council on behalf of the applicant said: “150 Far Gosford Street is a significant opportunity for redevelopment close to Coventry University”.
The former Cinema site falls within the Far Gosford Street Medieval Suburb Archaeological Constraints Area and the Far Gosford Conservation Area. The Coventry Society submitted the building for local listing in December 2018 and a decision is still awaited.
A local resident has also submitted the building for national listing, which was turned down as the building was not, at that time, under threat. The application has now been re-submitted and a decision from Historic England is awaited.
The cinema building was originally built for Frankie Turner in 1912, the architect was J. H. Gilbert who draw up plans for a 558 seat picture theatre to be built in Far Gosford Street, near it’s junction with Vecqueray Street. ‘The Crown’ had a very ornate facade above the entrance which held a large golden crown, either side of which were two circular windows. The entrance was up five steps to the central ticket box, flanked on either side by doors leading into the auditorium, approximately 22.8m x 11.5m (75ft x 38ft), sloped down towards the stage and screen. Seats were either side of a central gangway. In 1925, the Cinema was taken over by a young chairman of a company called Victory Motion Pictures Ltd.
The name of the Chairman was Oscar Deutsch, the founder of the Odeon Cinemas chain. He was born in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, but started his Cinema business in Coventry with his first cinema in Far Gosford Street – ”The Crown’. Oscar Deutsch and Mr. Noakes sold the Crown between 1930 and 1931 to Mr. H. F. Allen.
The Crown was temporarily closed in October 1940 due to air raid damage to the roof. After the war it had a complete modernisation. Externally the old facade was rebuilt to give a new entrance.
Above the entrance a canopy was erected along the whole width of the frontage, under which myriads of bulbs illuminated the pavement. Above the canopy, the crown and the two circular windows went, and the plain facade was illuminated by neon lights showing an outline of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe and the new name ‘The Paris’. Internally the entrance/foyer had new doors, cash desk, kiosk, with free coffee for patrons.
Within the auditorium there were new seats, curtains (tabs) screen lighting and walls decorated, all making the Paris a very nice cinema.
The Paris was opened on Saturday 1st March 1958 by the Lord Mayor of Coventry, Alderman Mrs Pearl Hyde. The opening film was ‘Her Crime Was Love’ starring Eve Bartok, who made a personal appearance at the opening. The policy of the Paris was to show continental films, hence its full name in 1958 was the Paris Luxury Continental Cinema.
With the national decline in cinema visits the Paris took on many different uses, including the city’s Lazer Quest gaming arena and also a snooker hall. Latterly, renamed as The Empire, the cinema became a very successful music venue. Unfortunately the owners felt that they could make more money by developing the site for student accommodation and gave notice to the music venue.
The City Council has supported The Empire to relocate to the former ABC cinema in Hertford Street and the owners are now hoping to cash in on their windfall.
The Coventry Society believes that the proposed student accommodation is over-development and inappropriate in a Conservation Area. We would like to see the building returned to a cultural use.
The full planning application can be seen online here. It has the reference number FUL/2020/2562. You can make your own online comments, but they must relate to planning matters.