Brighton, a city on the UK’s south coast, is well known for several things: creative media companies; a extensive beach; the annual Gay Pride parade; and eclectic entertainment venues. The millions of visitors that flock to this seaside city every year are greeted with a plethora of quirky entertainment options in intimate and charming venues, and one of the best known theatres in the area is the Duke of York’s Picture House which first opened its doors in 1910.
The oldest working cinema in the UK to operate under its original name, the Duke of York is capped with a pair of black and white striped can-can legs which act as a beacon for cinema-goers across the city. Several generations have now enjoyed the new releases, old classics and independent films shown under its roof and its reputation and demand have reached such a level that an additional venue was sought by owners Picturehouse.
Nestled in the network of boutique-lined streets and passageways that make up Brighton’s North Laines is the Komedia comedy club. Over the years the venue has hosted all kinds of entertainment from stand-up comedy to live music and the famous Playgroup Parties. It was here that Picturehouse found their new venue.
A brief was drawn up to transform a cabaret venue on the first floor of Komedia into a 2-screen cinema with a café and modern bar on the ground floor, operating independently from the comedy club next door. Experts in cinema design Panter Hudspith Architects were brought in to see the adaptive reuse project through to completion and the finished result is outstanding.
Two cosy screening rooms are filled with seats which sink beneath you (144 and 98), some of which can fit two or even three people, a touch that you’d be hard-pushed to find in some more commercial cinemas and the light-filled bar and café serve locally-sourced food from establishments such as Boho Gelato, which creates exquisite ice cream flavours such as sea salt toffee popcorn or mulled cider sorbet.
Before the space was used as a cabaret venue it was a Tesco’s supermarket and Panter Hudspith have actively welcomed elements of the building’s journey into its most recent use as a characterful cinema. The white and red stairs from its Tesco heyday have been buffed to gleaming and are now used as the main access point to the first floor. The cabaret floors have also been retained in the café and, after much polishing, are a warm and welcoming addition to this airy new eatery.
Panter Hudspith took WAN on a tour of the newly opened Duke’s at Komedia and explained the difficulties in transforming a venue of this nature into an acoustically sound and commercially successful new cinema.Article by Sian Disson, News Editor
Filming by James Forryan