The "Recreations Theatre" was the first of the "Cinematograph Theatres" founded by the cinema entrepreneur Montagu Pyke. He chose the location in Edgware Road because it was next door to an amusement arcade called Funland and because "the class of people one sees daily on the streets appeared to me that they would make an appreciative audience if you gave them good value and the prices were right."
Having little money of his own, Pyke succeeded in borrowing 100 pounds from a business acquaintance, enabling him to set up a limited company, Recreations Ltd., and a small office. By devious means he scraped together another 1,000 pounds to start building the cinema and by the time it was built he had raised the full 10,000 pounds authorised capital. The theatre was designed by W. Hancock and seated nearly 500 patrons. Free teas were a speciality until the pilferage of cutlery and crockery became too heavy to bear.
From the start, the theatre was a huge success, taking around 400 pounds a week against expenses of only 80 pounds. This set Pyke on the road to spectacular if short-lived success as the figurehead of a chain of cinemas in and around London. After his bankruptcy the Edgware Road theatre was renamed the Connaught Cinema and soldiered on until 1964, its seating capacity reduced to less than 400.
The Edwardians may not have been great architects but they had the knack of making a building look interesting, a knack not inherited by the designer of the insipid Waitrose store which now stands on the site of the cinema.
Black-and-white photograph courtesy of Cinema Theatre Association Archive