Photo: The Herald

The White Elephant cinema was designed by architect Harry Barnes and opened its doors in 1927. It was commissioned by renowned showman and eccentric A.E. Pickard, father of the Britannia Panopticon music hall. More than just a picture house, this building also housed a ballroom and restaurant, while the main auditorium could comfortably seat 1900 people.

The cinema was named as the result of a competition but was shortened to simply “Elephant” after it was sold to cinema mogul Alexander King in 1934. In the 1950s a CinemaScope screen was installed.

It closed in 1960 after which the street level was converted to shops. The main frontage was resurfaced and cut down in a crude attempt at modernisation. The original finish was more like the left hand side of the complex. This portion of the building has, over the years, been home to a series of night clubs, from Mr D’s and Rosco’s to its most recent incarnation as G1 Group’s The Cell. It now lies empty despite periodic rumours that it might return to its former use as a cinema.

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