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Home / Culture and Heritage / First Garden City Heritage Museum / Letchworth Buildings / Broadway Cinema / Queuing round the block at Broadway Cinema
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Queuing round the block at Broadway Cinema


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The Broadway Cinema was designed by Letchworth architects Bennett & Bidwell in an attractive Art-Deco style, and built by Howard Hurst in red-brick and concrete, which was cast on site. The massive expanse of brickwork – the building required some 350,000 bricks – was broken by patterned concrete blocks framing the intricate traceried windows. Externally, this ‘dignified’ building was lit by huge red and blue neon lights.

The Cinema was opened on August 26th 1936 with a black-tie gala performance of ‘Follow The Fleet’ starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The choice of films not only brought a bit of Hollywood glamour to the Garden City but also demonstrated the auditorium’s near-perfect acoustics.

Over 1,400 people crammed in on that opening night, with many more left queuing outside, and they would have been dazzled by more than just Fred and Ginger’s dancing!

The décor, designed by a specialist cinema interior designer, was finished in a stunning peacock and gold colour scheme, which was complemented by the smart matching uniforms of the usherettes.

Further glittering style was achieved by nearly 200 lights in the ceiling and concealed lamps on every other seat.

There was an octagonal foyer with free cloakrooms and an astonishing ventilation system, which purified and temperature-controlled air drawn in from outside. In these innovations The Broadway outshone even some new London cinemas.

13th Aug 2009

Art and Design, Citizenship, Geography, History

Key Stages:
Foundation, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4, Key Stage 4+

cinema, Art Deco, Letchworth, 1930s

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