Friday, April 15, 2016
Essex road, London
The reel world
My recent trip to London found me within a couple of streets of Essex Road, so a short detour took me here. I knew there was a former cinema in the street, and had read that it was a good example of ‘Egyptian art deco’, but even this didn’t quite prepare me for this street frontage. Welcome to the former Carlton Cinema in all its glory. A fine work of 1930 by George Coles, an architect best known for the art deco cinemas he designed for Oscar Deutsch of the Odeon chain. Here, though, he was working for the independent cinema company C & R Theatres; the Carlton later became an ABC cinema, then a bingo hall, then a church.*
A vast expanse of white Hathernware ceramic cladding is given the Tutankhamun-accents that cinema (and also factory) designers loved in the late-1920s and early-1930s: elaborately-topped columns,† brightly coloured triangles, striped concave cornices rounding everything off at the top. Looking a little closer there are also decorative relief details around the window openings and a colourful zigzag strip running above the central row of windows.
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*There’s more on the Carlton, Essex Road at the Cinema Treasures site, which reveals that the venue opened in 1930 with Harold Lloyd in Welcome Danger and closed in 1972 with Reg Varney in Mutiny on the Buses. O tempora o mores!
†Readers who click the factory link will see how the column tops on the Carreras tobacco factory in Mornington Crescent are more lotus-like than the rather stylized ones on the Carlton cinema. The same goes for the more leaf-like decoration on the bases of the factory columns. Since there's nothing ‘authentic’ about these Egyptian buildings, however, this doesn’t detract from the cinema’s design.