Opened 22 April 1920 with “The Forbidden City” and designed by Arnold England, the Majestic Picture House was part of the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres(PCT) circuit. With 1,233 seats in stalls and balcony and a splendid facade faced in white faience tiles on two sides of the building on its prominent town centre corner site of Old Street and Delamere Street, the cinema was a great success. It had an oak panelled foyers which had beautiful coloured tapestry’s on the walls. The interior was in a Georgian style and it was equipped with a pipe organ and a seperate tea room and cafe which were located on the upper floor. It passed, with all the other PCT houses to Gaumont British Theatres in 1929, but it was not until 12th July 1946 that it was renamed Gaumont. The Majestic Picture House was renovated in July 1936, with new seating installed and a re-recoration of the foyer and auditorium. A new Compton 3Manual/6Rank organ was installed that was opened by organist Con Docherty. Later being merged into the Rank Organisation, the Gaumont was re-named Odeon on 11th November 1962. It was eventually sold to an independent operator who renamed it the Metro Cinema from 6th November 1981.With capacity now down to 946 seats, the Metro Cinema continued as a single screen operation until the middle of 2003, sometime after a multi-plex had opened in the town. In 2008 (with seats and screen intact) the building was unused except for the long foyer area, linking the front and back elevations of the Metro, which was a Slotworld Amusement Arcade. By 2011, the entire building had been stripped out and stood empty and unused.
EAST IS EAST
In the late 1990's, director Damien O'Donnell decided to use the cinema as a filming location for his hit 1999 comedy movie East is East, transforming the place into a Bollywood cinema called the Moti Mahal. Set in early 1970s England, a Pakistani father - George Khan (Om Puri) finds the authority he has previously maintained challenged by his increasingly Anglicized children. While George is obsessed with the 1971 war between East and West Pakistan and arranging marriages for his children, the children themselves, who were born and brought up in Britain, increasingly see themselves as British and reject Pakistani customs of dress, food, religion and living. After George disowns Nazir for running out on his arranged marriage, he immediately begins making plans to have another one planned to maintain his image. It's amazing to think this building has been such an important part of movie history, not just showing films to the public but now immortalised in such a classic and culturally important film. See the photos below of Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Jimi Mistry, Jimmi Harkishin (Dev from Coronation Street) and more grace the corridors and auditorium of this incredible building.
Now in 2018 a consortium of investors have come together to purchase the building to save it from demolition, and plan to gain funding to restore the venue to its former glory through local and government funding.
Photography by Dave Kilcourse