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STATE, Kilburn
(1937-1990 )
Kilburn High Road, London NW6

The high tower of the State still dominates the Kilburn High Road and surrounding area. Designed by architect George Coles it was opened by Gaumont on 20th December 1937 with a host of stars in attendance, including Gracie Fields, George Formby, Vic Oliver, Henry Hall and Larry Adler. With a seating capacity of 4004 - 1356 of them in the balcony - it was the biggest cinema ever opened in England and was furnished with a lavish interior in Renaissance style. It had a 100 ft by 50 ft stage, now removed, and a Wurlitzer organ, which still remains and is often played.

The cinema closed temporarily in 1940, then again in 1960 to allow the construction of a ballroom in the stalls. A second screen was added in 1975, while the rest of the cinema closed to be converted into a bingo hall. I visited this cinema around 1980 to see Ridley Scott's Alien; disappointingly the sound system was so poor it was virtually impossible to follow the dialogue. The cinema closed in 1990 and the building is now run as a bingo hall, with most of the original architectural features happily intact.

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