Opening of Duke of York’s cinema, 1910

This postcard shows the opening of the Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton.

Why I like this photo

These days, Preston Circus is a pretty busy junction with traffic filling the roads. But on 22 September  1910, it was full of people eager to witness the opening of the new ‘picture theatre’, Brighton’s first purpose-built cinema.

It was the ambition of actress Violet Melnotte Wyatt – “I want an Electric Theatre!” – that gave rise to the project. Over a century later the Duke of York’s is still standing and serving the film-going public.

Apart from the colour, the façade has changed very little over the years, earning it the reputation as a true survivor from the early days of cinema. Even the buildings in the background can still be seen today. The sole motor car in the middle sits empty, having dropped off some Very Important Passengers.

What I love about this image is that the onlookers are the subject of the photograph more than the actual cinema itself. With the exception of a few children and one lady in the centre, everyone is wearing a hat, which is not something you would see today. It gives a wonderful opportunity to observe people’s expressions and I feel almost as though I was there, jostling through the crowd.

Alexia Lazou, Collections Assistant