UK's oldest working cinema, The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, closes its doors

UK's oldest working cinema, The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, closes its doors

The UK's oldest working cinema, The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, is shutting down for the foreseeable future.

Details are currently limited, but there are no new film listings available from today (1 March) onwards. Attempts to contact the owner have received no response, and The Electric’s website confirmed the news with a sober: “The Electric is now closed” this morning.

Built in a converted taxi garage on Old Station Street, the 115-year-old Art Deco structure is located near the Old Rep Theatre and The Crown pub – known for having hosted Black Sabbath’s inaugural performance.

A beloved Birmingham mainstay and an atmospheric port of call for film lovers, The Electric first started screening movies in 1909, showing silent films with piano backing. From the 30s, the cinema showed rolling news reels from Pathé and British Movietone along with short films and cartoons.

The Electric Cinema in Birmingham
The Electric Cinema in Birmingham - DM

Its two screens, decked out with sofas and offering the possibility for cinemagoers to order nibbles and drinks from your seat, screened 35mm films and digital, and even organised themed screenings with specially decorated interiors.

It offered a shrewdly curated selection of new and older films, giving patrons an old-school cinema experience, maintaining its historical heritage and upadting to modern times.

The layout of The Electric
The layout of The Electric - DM

The sad news comes after the historic venue closed down during the pandemic, before reopening under new management in 2022.

While no further information has yet been made available, the building's lease is coming to an end and unconfirmed speculations suggest a developer plans to construct a 50-floor residential tower block.

Tributes to the much-loved building have poured in across social media platforms, and a petition has been launched to preserve the historic cinema.

"The UK is losing its cultural hubs to gentrification right before our eyes. All under Tory rule..."

"It's been an incredible place to see independent movies for as long as I can remember (apart from the pandemic ofc) and I'm devastated."

"How on earth is the electric not a listed building, it's the oldest cinema in this bloody country and yet can be torn down to make way for flats. Birmingham has an abysmal reputation and tearing down our best history is only gonna hurt it more..."

Darren John has set up a petition 'Designate Birmingham's Old Station Street a Historic, Cultural and Civic Asset'.

“Old Station Street should be pedestrianised and turned into Birmingham's small venues cultural offer and the beating heart of a city proud of its heritage, cutting edge in it's arts outlook and bold in its vision.”

The petititon adds: “Birmingham has been down this path before. Destroying historic and beautiful architecture of nationally cultural significance only to regret it shortly after. Do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Birmingham needs apartments but there are huge supplies of land in Birmingham city centre more suitable than this.”

“A city with no culture or history is a just a block of flats and a train station taking people elsewhere in the long run. Birmingham calls on its leaders to stop the destruction of Old Station Street now before it is too late."