Built in 1910, the Electric has a strong claim to be the oldest purpose-built cinema in Britain. Designed by Gerald (or Gilbert) Seymour Valentin, who was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915, it was constructed in the style of theatres of the period, the facade adorned with swags and classical columns. There was seating for some 600 people.
Over the years the lower end of the Portobello Road went down in tone; the Electric changed hands a number of times and declined to a scruffy local fleapit. In the late Fifties I lived a 5-minute walk away in Elgin Crescent but patronised the cinema only once, to see Laurel and Hardy's Way Out West. Later it became a repertory cinema for several years but eventually closed down.
My photograph taken in 1999 shows the Electric much as it appeared in the background of a brief scene in the Hugh Grant film Notting Hill - dilapidated, boarded up and fly-posted. Since then it has been refurbished and restored at great expense by a philanthropic entrepreneur and on 22nd February 2001 the Electric reopened as a fairly smart, pricey cinema club with bar and restaurant, the available seating reduced to 240.