Historic Art Deco cinema in Yorkshire saved from demolition after being granted Grade II-listed status

Rotherham’s Regal Cinema could be saved from demolition following a successful campaign to have the 87-year old building Grade two listed.

Plans to demolish the former cinema on Corporation Street and built 45 flats were lodged with Rotherham Council in June.

Sunshine Homes applied to demolish the former cinema to build a four storey block of 45 apartments and three commercial units on the ground floor.

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Planning documents stated that the developers did explore the option of converting the existing building, but this was not a “viable proposition”.

The former Regal Cinema in Rotherham

Although the listing is no guarantee that the building will not be demolished, developers will now need to demonstrate very special circumstances to do so.

The Cinema Theatre Association, a largely voluntary organisation which campaigns to protect historic cinema buildings, successfully applied to Historic England to list the building.

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Richard Gray, chair of casework at the Cinema Theatre Association, said that the association is “pleased” that he cinema has now been listed.

“It was a direct threat of redevelopment for the Rotherham Regal,” said Mr Gray. “[Cinemas] are part of our heritage. If you let another one go, then there’s less of them. It’s the major cinema that Rotherham ever had, it’s never had anything else like that.

“It’s one significant Art Deco building of the inter-war period. Generally, between the wars we had the depression from 1929 so there wasn’t a lot of construction really. If you lose that, you’re losing a major part of your infrastructure and heritage.”

The 1,800 seat cinema opened on December 22 1934 with Girls, Please!, and became the Odeon in 1946.

The cafe was converted into a dance studio in the 1960’s, and the cinema was sold to an independent operator in 1975 and renamed the Scala.

The building closed as a cinema in 1983, and later became a Mecca Bingo Hall, which closed during the pandemic.

The building was put up for sale by auction in February 2020 at an asking price of £600,000, but failed to sell.

Simon Moss, Rotherham Council’s assistant director for planning, regeneration and transport, said: “We can confirm that following a request by the Theatre and Cinema Association, Historic England have concluded that the former Regal Cinema on Corporation Street successfully fulfils the national criteria for listing a building.

“Therefore, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has decided to add the former Regal Cinema to the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest as a Grade II listed building.”