Picture Palaces
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140 Maida Vale, London W9

This elegant cinema, designed by E.A. Stone, who also designed the Kilburn Grange and the London Astorias, opened on 27th January 1913 with a performance of a feature entitled Behind the Mask. The Maida Vale Picture Palace (as it was originally called) boasted not only its own cinema organ but also a seven-piece orchestra conducted by a Mr. T.M. Paiba. The vestibule contained a marble floor and a "Georgian mantlepiece with a dog-grate". There were seats for 1500, including 500 in the balcony, some of the latter in curtained boxes. The interior was elegantly furnished, with a domed ceiling and a 20ft by 15ft screen. Programmes changed twice a week, with continous performances every afternoon and evening. Ticket prices ranged from 6d (2½p) to 2s (10p), with boxes at 7s 6d (37½p) and 10s (50p); books of tickets at a discount could be bought and bookings could made by telephone.

By May, Mr. Paiba had been replaced as orchestra conductor by no less a personage than Signor T. del Perugia, "gold medallist of the Florence Conservatoire of Music"! By 1916 the cinema was showing Edison's Kinetophone Talking Pictures, an early primitive precursor of modern sound-on-film talkies. In 1921 the cinema was taken over by Scala (Maida Vale) Ltd. and in 1923 the name of the theatre was changed to the Maida Vale Picture House. In 1927 it was again taken over, this time by Associated Provincial Picture Theatres, who installed a Wurlitzer Organ, prompting complaints from local residents about the noise. Like a number of other cinemas, the Picture House gave Christmas performances for local children - in 1928 it was Chaplin's The Kid followed by bass singer Señor Enrico Garcia, accompanied by full orchestra and the Wurlitzer organ!

In 1929 the theatre was taken over by the Gaumont British Picture Corporation, who installed sound, but 11 years later the cinema finally closed down. It briefly became a restaurant, then opened as the Carlton Rooms, from where many live broadcasts were made of popular dance-bands of the day. In 1961 it became the Mecca Social Club providing bingo, with a large sign saying "Casino" on one of the towers. Since then it has become an Islamic centre, the exterior now splendidly redecorated.

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