Paignton Picture House
Paignton Picture House in the 60s Paignton Picture House Entrance
Inside Paignton Picture House
A Brief History

The cinema was built on the site of The Broadmead Hotel, or more precisely to the back of it. The auditorium or hall being built first, sometime between 1907 and 1910 as the Paignton Bioscopic Exhibition centre - the word 'cinema' didn't exist in those days. People would come through the front door of the hotel, through its hall into the auditorium to watch slides and short films of about 4 to 5 minutes each, with a 21 piece orchestra playing during the showing.

As the showings became more popular a proper cinema was built in place of the hall and the hotel was then closed and knocked down. The final part of the present building, the office block to the side was completed in 1913, and the Paignton Picture House was formed.

As you approach the picture house you can see there is a curved stained glass window running from the first floor to the roof, set between Corinthian pilasters. The vine and grape glass pattern is meant to be lit from the inside and seen from the outside in order to entice people in.

Enter through the unique circular shaped entrance and you will see the building still retains much of the original architecture. As you enter the main auditorium you start to travel back in time and your eye is directed to the barrel vaulted roof supported by pilasters, each topped with a cartouche of a face from the entertainment industry - one of which is Douglas Fairbanks as Moses, there are also crests which are from old film companys.

You walk down the centre isle where back in the very early days it was called the "Electric Bioscopic Exhibition Centre with Entertainment Suitable for Ladies" - gentleman would be seated on the right and ladies on the left.

The screen in front of you was altered in the late 1950's when cinemascope arrived, but other than that very little else has changed.

When you reach the screen and turn around you can then really appreciate the beauty of this little cinema, with its curved balcony and all its art deco decoration.

Up at the back of the balcony you can see the three private boxes, used by the rich and famous of the time including Paris Singer (son of Isaac Merritt Singer of sewing machine fame), who would be accompanied by his mistress Isadora Duncan, and it is rumoured that Edward, Duke of Windsor, and Mrs Simpson used the boxes whilst courting in Torquay.

We also must not forget the most famous patron of all, Agatha Christie. She would often visit the Picture House and would sit in row two, seat two, in the circle. In many of her books, whenever the Gaiety Cinema is mentioned it is actually the Paignton Picture House that she is speaking of.

In 1987 the cinema was taken over by the Dart Valley Steam railway whose Paignton Station entrance is alongside. They had a grandiose idea for using the cinema as a booking hall on the lines of The Grand Central Station in New York. Their plans for this were thwarted when Torbay Council and English Heritage became involved, with the Picture House being declared a Grade II listed building in 1991.

It continued as a cinema until 26th September 1999 when it finally closed due to a number of reasons - one of which was that the Festival Theatre on the sea front was converted into a multiplex. It has remained closed since then with only the minimum care and attention being given to it by its owners.

No heating through the winter months in a building over time will start to cause deterioration and, if left for too long, irreversible damage to the internal fabric of that building.

...the most famous patron of all, Agatha Christie, would often visit the Picture House and sit in row two, seat two, in the circle.

Paignton Picture House in its earlist days
Paignton Picture House not long before it closed at the end of the 20th century
Paignton Picture House