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Regent Street Cinema

Built as a theatre for optical demonstrations as part of the Royal Polytechnic, the Lumire brothers showed the first film to a British Audience here. The space has been restored as repertory cinema, with 187 seats and acts as a heritage destination.


Tim Ronalds Architects (refurb)



309 Regent Street W1B 2UW

Sun 10am-1pm. Guided tours.

Oxford Circus

88, 453, C2

  • Access for wheelchair users
  • Refreshments available
  • Toilets available

REGENT STREET CINEMA Our heritageThe cinema began life in 1848 when a new theatre was added on to the south side of what was then the Royal Polytechnic Institution. The theatre was purpose built for the _optical exhibitions_ for which the institution had become famous. Early shows included demonstrations of the latest scientific and technological innovations, lantern slides as a backdrop to live music and drama, and full theatrical performances. On Christmas Eve 1862 a production of Charles Dickens_ ghost story The Haunted Man included the first demonstration of Pepper_s Ghost and there were many subsequent plays incorporating this unfailingly popular illusion. On 20 February 1896, the Polytechnic_s theatre became the birthplace of cinema in the UK, when the LumiŠre brothers_ Cin‚matographe machine was demonstrated to the press and these earliest of moving images given their first presentation to a paying audience the following day. The LumiŠre brothers_show had first been seen by the public in Paris on 28 December 1895 and after London continued its tour to New York, Bombay and Buenos Aires.Following the LumiŠres_ screening, the theatre went on to be used for a variety of entertainment and presentation firsts. From 1899, Alfred West_s Our Navy and Our Army films ran continuously for fourteen years, and set a precedent for the theatres conversion into a permanent cinema in the 1920s. As a landmark destination in the West End the cinema achieved another first with its screening of La Vie Commence Demain in January 1951 _ the first film to be awarded an X certificate in the UK. After a short period as a venue for musicals in the 1970s, the Cinema closed to the public in 1980 and became a lecture theatre.After a three year fundraising campaign the Regent Street Cinema was restored and re-openedÿby the University of Westminster in May 2015, reinstating one of the most historic cinemas in Britain to its former grandeur. Echoing its history, the cinema will continue to be a catalyst for innovative education and research, and a showcase for the University_s internationally acclaimed work in film, media and visual culture. To celebrate the renovation and re-opening of the Regent Street Cinema, its long and fascinating history has been told for the first time in a book _The Magic Screen _ History of Regent Street Cinema_. The book is available to purchase at the Box Office or by contacting archive@westminster.ac.uk.