Brighton history


The tragedy of Brighton's lost theatres

This list shows theatres in Brighton with 1,000 seats or more that have closed since the Second World War—seven of them, leaving one functioning and one long-time derelict.
      If Brighton no longer seriously thinks of itself as being a centre for culture and entertainment, it still has aspirations to be considered as one. This is particularly true during May, when the Brighton Festival and the Fringe put on a show—actually, lots of shows. But the rest of the year? The Theatre Royal takes such touring shows as are available and can be staged and the Dome has a continuing programme of music and other performances.

      It is also true that there is considerable grass roots cultural activity in the city, especially in music, but often not reaching beyond a small-ish coterie of supporters. Small shows are put on in the 30 'performance spaces' around the city.
      Perhaps because of its heritage, the city has always attracted and continues to attract creative people. But the vibrant commercial sector that attracted and sustained these artists, writers and especially performers has shrivelled to less than a tenth of the size of 50 years ago. There is too little at the well-promoted professional end of the spectrum to inspire both younger performers and audiences.

by date of final closure

• closed 1955, demolished 1961
46 North Road
opened 1888
Hippodrome Circus 1891-1894
Re-designed by Frank Matcham in 1894; 1,125 seats,.
Eden Theatre 1894-1904
Grand Theatre 1904-1931
Grand Cinema 1931-1940
Grand Theatre 1941-1955 [variety]
became a furniture factory, demolished after a fire in 1961.

• closed 1956, demolished 1963
85 King's Road
Alhambra Opera House and Music Hall 1888-1912 Designed by Frank Matcham; 1,200 seats
Palladium Cinema with occasional live shows 1912-1956
demolished 1963.

• closed 1963, demolished 1967
16-17 New Road
Wright's New Oxford Music Hall 1863-1892
Close to the Theatre Royal, it was gutted by fire in 1892.
Empire Theatre of Varieties 1892-1903
Re-opened 1892, the new theatre was designed by Charles E Clayon of local architects Clayton & Black. In 1902 it was bought by Thomas Barrasford and renamed
Coliseum Theatre 1902-1909
1,250 seats
Court Picture Palace 1909-1947 [full-time cinema]
Dolphin Theatre 1947-1952
Her Majesty's Theatre 1952-1955
remodellled by Morgan & Crook, renamed to mark the accession of Queen Elizabeth II.
Paris Cinema 1955-1963
713 seats (1960)
It was offered to the embryo University of Sussex as an arts centre. It stood empty for five years, in one of Brighton's busiest streets, before being demolished and replaced by offices.

• closed 1964, demolished 2001
Imperial 1940-1948
Essoldo Cinema 1948-1964 with occasional live shows 1957-1964); 1,870 seats.

• closed 1965
West Pier Theatre 1893-1940, 1946-1965
1,000 seats; damage and eventual collapse of pier.

• closed 1973
Palace Pier Theatre 1901-1940, 1946-1973
1,500 seats; removed 1973 with an unfulfilled promise of reinstatement.

• closed 2006, still standing
Hippodrome (circus) 1901-1902
Converted by Frank Matcham from skating rink. Hippodrome (variety theatre) 1902-1964
c1,400 seats
Mecca Bingo 1967-2006

New Road
Theatre Royal
Opened on 27 June 1807 in the newly created New Road. Reconstructed and extended in 1866 by C J Phipps; the façade was replaced in 1894 with a design by C E Clayton incorporating a colonnade and a new entrance.
      It is still in operation and now has 952 seats but at least 200 of these have restricted sightlines.

Page created 30 April 2018