GALA BINGO CLUB
(Formerly listed as: MITCHAM ROAD SW17, THE GRANADA CINEMA)
Former cinema, built in 1930-31 for Bernstein Theatres as the Granada. Architect: Cecil Masey (1881-1960); interior designer Theodore Komisarjevsky (1882-1954). Rendered frontage with rear left return wall and auditorium which extends over the adjoining carriageway of stock brick, with steel frame. Large auditorium at right-angles to street, with balcony and stage. Distinctive plan with double-height foyer and inner staircase hall leading to 'hall of mirrors' serving balcony.
EXTERIOR: Symmetrical faience-clad facade in Italianate style. A central section rises higher than the wings. The main entrance is centrally positioned and up three steps, over which is a cantilevered canopy extending along the width of the building and down the left return. Above, is a tetrastyle portico in antis with giant Corinthian columns and matching return pilasters. The rear wall of the portico has three tall windows at first floor level, with three more, smaller square windows above. Metal glazing bars to the first floor windows and honeycomb grills over the second floor windows. Full entablature over the portico then a space for the name of the cinema. Then a cornice, and an attic storey with nine small square apertures. The corner panels have borders of arabesques on a blue ground. Low pyramidal pantile roof. The wings have fielded panels rising the full height of the portico and entablature. The left return is similarly treated but with pilasters instead of a portico and a narrow aperture encompassing metal panels and grills. The right return is partially obscured by an adjacent building. Various exit doors and windows to stairs, offices and lavatories.
INTERIOR: Five sets of double-doors lead into an outer lobby decorated in quasi-Medieval style, incorporating both round-headed arches and Gothic elements. The side walls are arranged in three bays, separated by paired spiral colonnettes standing on plinths decorated with lozenge motifs. The interspersing dado had quatrefoils. On the left, in each bay, is a pier glass, while on the right of each bay is a ticket hatch. On both sides this arrangement is surmounted by a frieze (incorporating quatrefoils over pairs of colonnettes) and blind arches ornamented with cusping and foliage decoration. Coffered ceiling with low pendants at the intersections and cusping on the beams. Glazed web-like ceiling light-fixtures. Five sets of double doors, separated by more lozenge plinths and spiral colonnettes (surmounted by similar cusped and foliage arches) admit to the main double-height foyer, again in quasi-Medieval style. On the inner side, the entrance doors are separated by the same decoration. Above each pair of doors are a series of superimposed Gothic arches (the outermost cusped), surmounted by gables enriched with foliage and enclosing spiral roundels and divided by small trefoil niches. The foyer is five bays long - the central bay is wider than the others, accommodating two lancet windows rather than one. Each bay is defined by a pilaster decorated with stiff-leaf foliage, having capitals of animals playing lutes etc. Above are unadorned round-headed relieving arches; each lancet (except the one over the cafe gallery stairs) has a shaped apron containing an up-lighter. The ceiling rises into a central attic, the clerestory of which is decorated with grisailles of leaping animals drawn in naive medieval style, and false Gothic windows with imitation leading. At the far end of the hall, twin flights of stairs in Travertine rise to quarter-turn landings and then up again to a balcony. The attic is terminated at each end by broad depressed three-centred arches which turn upwards to become ogees. The undersides of the broad flat arches are cusped. Under the inner end arch there is a flat arch to create a tympanum, which has painted scroll-work decoration. Above the main arches is an area of fluted panelling. Ceiling decorated with connected roundels and trefoils. Former cafe decorated with Gothic grills. There is a large Gothic chandelier in the centre of the foyer with small ones distributed in it elsewhere and in the cafe. Two gilded wooden settees. A fine inlaid-oak and wrought-iron side table. Lighting standards in scrolling wrought-iron with triangular tops to support 'electric candles'. The foyer is at present carpeted but originally it was floored with Travertine. At stalls level a wide aperture leads through, past scagliola columns and up three Travertine steps (with short handrails supported by wrought-iron balustrades), to an inner foyer lined with mirrors divided by attached half-columns, flanked by vertical panels of zig-zag cusping and dog-tooth over reeding. Entrance to the auditorium is by way of doors in the far left and right facing corners. At balcony level the arrangement is identical except that the left hand doors lead first through the 'Hall of Mirrors', fitted in the void between the stepping of the balcony and its soffit. The latter has flanking arcades of cusped round-headed arches backed by slightly smaller blind arcades inset with pier-glasses. Each end terminates with paired cusped arches. The barrel ceiling is divided into fields by bands of ornamented mouldings.
Large double-height auditorium in the Gothic style. Suspended over the proscenium is a canopy comprising five crocketed and cusped gables, above which is a complex screen of latticework arches. The ante-proscenium is divided into three bays, each separated by giant fluted pilasters with composite capitals incorporating stiff-leaf foliage. The first, nearest the proscenium, has, over a dado containing two niches and a roundel, huge back-lit stained-glass traceried windows with gable tops, flanked by buttresses. The windows are interrupted, two-thirds of the way up, by bands of reticulated tracery while in front are suspended a pendant hung with 'electric candles'. The second bays comprise huge arches over twin exit apertures at dado level, themselves flanked by cluster columns. The arches include roll and foliage mouldings and the tympana are decorated with bands of ornament. Above the arches are steeply-pointed gables, the space between the arches and the gables being filled by painted decoration: troubadour on the left and wimpled maiden attended by a swain on the right. The gables are surmounted by finials of rampant lions holding shields. The gables are flanked by round-headed niches; these are filled by more painted decoration representing medieval figures. These niches are capped by gables topped by small foliage finials. Above, are three bands of small cusped niches interrupted in the centre by a square back-lit stained-glass window with circular glazing bars and imitation leading. The niches abutting the pilasters contain shields with quasi-armorial bearings, the others are backed with painted decoration of repeated lozenges. The third bays contain, at dado level, two bands of blind arcading (the upper one with spiral colonnettes and curvilinear tracery); then the ends of the return fronts of the balcony backed by triple colonnades with spiral half-columns supporting round-headed arches surmounted by gables with embellished tympana and foliage finials. The arches are filled with more painted decoration: troubadour with lute, male and female figures holding musical instruments and robed male on the left; while on the right, another wimpled maiden, male and female figures in flowing robes and an African boy drummer. Above are three bands of niches, identically treated to those in the second bays. Concave cornice with rosettes. The pilaster furthest from the proscenium is repeated to emphasise the ending of the ante-proscenium. The ceiling over the ante-proscenium has embellished beams connecting the pilasters, the rest is painted to represent a sky with clouds. Raised standing areas under the balcony against the rear side walls. The walls are enlivened with imitation back-lit windows. In front are traceried balustrades and cluster columns. Heavily coffered balcony soffit with Gothic chandeliers and back-lit glazed roundels. Serpentine balcony front adorned with spiral decoration. Huge balcony with its original seating. One central vomitory but with two side entrances enclosed by colonnades supporting pentice roofs. Sumptuously coffered ceiling over balcony, the central section of which rises into an attic with sides comprising arcaded ventilation grilles. Gothic chandeliers. The stage has been converted into a cafe for the bingo. The fourteen-rank Wurlitzer organ survives under the stage, as does the four-manual organ console in the orchestra pit, together with the rail and its arcaded front.
ANALYSIS: A world class cinema - without doubt the most lavishly decorated interior of any cinema in Britain and among the most lavish in Europe; the finest evocation of the sumptuous movie palaces of the 1920s and 1930s, the flagship of the Granada circuit. It is the masterpiece of its creators - Sidney Bernstein, the architect Cecil Masey, the mural artists Lucien le Blanc (possibly alias Leslie le Blond) and Alex Johnstone, but towering above all, the inspiration and imagination of Theodore Komisarjevsky, the Russian expatriate prince and theatrical impressario who is now remembered chiefly for his cinema design. The building closed as a cinema in 1973, re-opening as a bingo club three years later.
Ian Nairn, Nairn's London, Penguin Books, Harmondworth, 1966, pages 192-3.
Dennis Sharp, The Picture Palace, Hugh Evelyn, London, 1969, pages 112 and 114-6.
David Atwell, Cathedrals of the Movies, Architectural Press, London 1980, pages 63, 83, 124-5, 129-134, 140-41, 169, 173-5 and 184.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England - London 2: South, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth 1983, pages 83 and 699.
Elain Harwood and Andrew Saint, Exploring England's Heritage - London, HMSO, London, 1991, pages 192 and 201.
Richard Gray, Cinemas in Britain, Lund Humphries, London, 1996, pages 8, 74-76, 78, 100, 119 and 135.
Allen Eyles, The Granada Theatres, Cinema Theatre Association, London, 1998, pages 42-49 and 254.
Listing NGR: TQ2752071310