'It's inconceivable to treat a listed cinema as a shell': ‘Grave concern’ at Shrewsbury cinema bid

"Grave concerns" have been expressed over a Grade II-listed former cinema which could be partially demolished as part of the Shrewsbury masterplan.

The auditorium of the old Granada cinema
The auditorium of the old Granada cinema

The Buzz Bingo Club, formerly the Granada cinema, in Castle Gates, is included in the Castle Street Vision and Development Framework.

It says the site would be suitable for a residential mixed-use development, with expansion on the proposal including part-demolition of the cinema to offer a mix of commercial and culture, with residential on the top floor.

The Cinema Theatre Association believe historic and architectural integrity would be sacrificed, and that the building is of national importance due to the interior design of "genius" Theodore Komisarjevsky.

“We totally oppose these proposals,” says Peter Wylde, CTA architectural caseworker.

The Grade II-listed former Granada cinema in Shrewsbury

“It's clear that the mixed-use development which has been proposed cannot be achieved without sacrificing the historic and architectural integrity of this fine listed cinema. To be blunt, it's inconceivable to treat a listed cinema as a shell, with a new building within the outer walls.”

Opened in November 1934 for Sidney Bernstein's Granada chain with a seating capacity for over 1,500 patrons, its interior was designed by Komisarjevsky, who was considered the greatest cinema decorator of his day.

His design for the Granada, Shrewsbury, remains virtually untouched and is the earliest surviving complete Granada interior in the classical style.

“If Komisarjevsky could walk into this building today, he would be impressed by the high standard of its upkeep over the years and by the fact it remains practically unaltered," added Mr Wylde.

"It was never subdivided like so many other cinemas from this period and still retains a feeling of opulence that the Granada cinema chain was famous for.

The foyer of the former Granada cinema in Shrewsbury

“Komisarjevsky designed the interiors for nineteen Granada cinemas between 1930-39. Twelve remain standing today and eight of those have been either Grade I, II or II* Listed. That shows the brilliance of Komisarjevsky's work."

“The Shrewsbury Big Town Plan should be looking to embrace this wonderful example of Komisarjevsky's work,” explained Mr Wylde. “The Granada cinema is a building of national importance and can play a major role in taking the town forward.”

The CTA also believe that The Big Town Partnership team should encourage Buzz bingo to remain at the Granada cinema.

“Buzz bingo is a viable business and one of the main attractions in this area,” added Mr Wylde.

The auditorium

“As the country is released from a national lock down, entertainment venues such as Buzz Bingo will provide the economic stimulus town centres desperately need. The knock-on effect of Buzz Bingo's occupancy of the Granada on surrounding shops and eateries should not be underestimated.

"And even if Buzz should decide to relocate, the Partnership Team need to think creatively about how to use the auditorium and foyer spaces while preserving Komisarjevsky's legacy.

"Imagine an art gallery within this amazing space. Or perhaps it could be turned into a live music venue; the building was built, don't forget, to stage live entertainment as well.

“We would like to remind the partnership team of the historic importance of Komisarjevsky's work at the former Granada cinema, Shrewsbury, and that buildings are listed for a reason.”

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