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  • Writer's pictureIna

The Capitol, Forest Hill - Former Art Deco Cinema, Now Pub

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

London's The Capitol had been Forest Hill's grandest cinema back starting from the 1930s and up until October 1973. Designed in Egyptian style by the distinguished garden designer and cinema architect John Stanley Beard, it was opened in 1929. Although it had been operated by the Associated British Cinemas (ABC) from July 1933, it was renamed ABC much later, in 1968.

Main Entrance

The movie theatre with 1691 seats, a Compton organ, three dressing rooms, and a full-sized stage survived demolition plans until 1978 when it was saved and turned into a Bingo Hall.

It functioned as such for the next 18 years. In 2001 The Capitol officially reopened as a Weatherspoons Pub.

“A rare survival of a complete 1920’s cinema”

Since the original layout is well preserved, it's not very difficult to imagine the opening ceremony which featured music from the cinema’s organ and orchestra, or people's enthusiasm after watching the silent movie "Man, woman, and sin," starring John Gilbert.

Home of the World’s First Illuminated Theatre Organ Console Case

As the Silent Era was almost over, few people know that in September 1932 The Capitol was where the first Illuminated Theatre Organ Console Case was presented to the film-loving public by the organist Jack Courtnay. Theatre Organs used to be featured at movie séances, and for audiences' extra excitement, they were bathed in a superb spotlight, guaranteeing a unique experience.

Ticket Booth featuring the former iconic cinema's main Films

Apart from popular moving pictures, the Capitol presented variety shows and spectacular organ concerts until the 1950s. Being one of the few 1920s Art Deco cinema buildings opened before talking pictures took over, it had to be retrofitted for sound at some point. Still, it's a pop culture visual gem and a unique, historic site. Stepping inside it feels as magical as Woody Allen's "Purple Rose of Cairo" or if you're part of the "Netflix and chill" generation, more of an enigmatic Hotel Cortez from "American Horror Story"'s season 5, titled "Hotel."

#Challenge: Find the David Bowie Corner

Yes, the Brixton-born "Blackstar" artist has his own corner here, as a fascinating triptych that reminds pub-goers of his universal legacy. Start snooping around and you'll find it.

Original Main and Side entrance, wonderful reminders of building's former cinematic use

Address: 📌 11-21 London Rd, Forest Hill, London SE23 3TW


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