Ideal Cinema

Ideal Cinema

Opened: 1912/13
Closed: 1917
Address: Bowman’s Place
Demolished: Yes

Plans had been afoot for some time to turn the tramcar shed in Bowman’s Place just off the Holloway Road into a large 1350-seat cinema. In the end, however, it took a number of revised drawings – including reducing the cinema’s seating to 720 – and a few false starts before London County Council (LCC) gave permission for the Ideal Cinema to open at the start of 1913. Lovegrove & Papworth the local architectural firm who specialised in cinema design were responsible for the design and building work, as they were for other cinemas in Islington, such as the Electric Vaudeville on Seven Sisters Road, and the Victoria Cinematograph Theatre on New North Road for example.

Sadly, today there is almost no trace of the Ideal Cinema but we can use our imagination helped by the memories of a former visitor of the cinema to picture what this picture-palace must have looked like when it first opened its doors to the paying public.

Entering from Bowman’s Place we ascend a flight of marble steps and find ourselves in a tessellated hall, which is a blaze of electric lights. Passing though the swinging doors we find ourselves in the auditorium. The seats are handsomely upholstered and designed with such splendid “rake” that there is no chance of anyone’s view being obstructed … The walls are adorned with French grey panels on a background of Indian red. The auditorium is 118ft long and 50ft wide.*

From the description it seems that the cinema must have been an impressive place to visit in those first years after opening. Yet the Ideal Cinema did not stay ideal for very long as by 1917 the building had fallen into disrepair and was forcibly shut down by LCC – a fate shared with many other early cinemas that failed to me the strict safety requirements brought about by the 1909 Cinematograph Act. It was the danger of fire – as it was with many – that caused the Cinematograph License at the Ideal Cinema to be revoked; a LCC report at the time stated that due to ‘neglect and lack of competent attention the electrical installation was in a dangerous condition’ and that ‘the engine room contained a considerable quantity of unnecessary inflammable material’. Given that all cinemas at this time were screening films that were printed on nitrate film – which tended to be very flammable at the best of times – it is little surprise that with this increased risk of fire at the Ideal Cinema the authorities decided to close the place down until such time as repairs had been made and another inspection had taken place.

Unfortunately, this short-lived cinema never did open its doors again to the public. In the years up to 1920 a number of applications were lodged for a Cinematograph License but the building was always deemed to be below standard for a place of public entertainment. The building became a gramophone warehouse for a number of years but was later demolished; today any evidence of the tramcar shed cum cinema has long gone being replaced instead by an empty spot in the playground of Grafton Primary School.

Quotes from cinemagoers cited in Draper (1989). See Further Reading.

Ideal CinemaIdeal Cinema. Digital Impression.

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  1. Michele Proto

    I have a playbill which I think is from 1914. It is for the film “Her greatest mistake” and “A military Judas” and says it was for the Ideal Cinema Holloway.

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