With an elaborately decorated barrel-vaulted ceiling, the interior of the cinema originally seated around 750 on one floor with no balcony, though this was later reduced to 700 when it became the Kenning Hall Kinema in 1919. In the late thirties the cinema was taken over by the Odeon circuit when the extended frontage was added. This take-over was with a view to eventually demolishing the Kenning Hall and building a modern Odeon Theatre on the expanded site of the cinema and adjacent pub. The seating capacity was further reduced to 641 and the name was changed to Kenning Hall Cinema.
Due to World War II, the redevelopment never happened and the Kenning Hall soldiered on, remaining one of the Odeon circuit’s lesser cinemas (ABC had got in first and in October 1939 built their 1,884 seat Ritz Cinema almost next door. This was later demolished and replaced with a block of flats). The Kenning Hall was leased out to an independent operator D Mistlin from March 1958, but finally closed in June 1979. It lay empty and unused until 1983 when it was converted into a nightclub called “Dougies”, then renamed the Palace Pavilion. In recent years, the Palace Pavilion has become the focus for a series of street shootings which has earned the area the name “Murder Mile”.
The Friends of Clapton Cinematograph Theatre was launched in December 2006 with the aim of preserving and restoring the historic Clapton Cinematograph Theatre at 229 Lower Clapton Road. Known to many in recent years as the Palace Pavilion, the building’s modern frontage hides the facade of the old cinema, which celebrated its centenary year in 2010.
After years of campaigning, the local community finally obtained the support of Hackney Council and the Police in having the licence of the nightclub withdrawn. With the establishment of the Friends of Clapton Cinematograph, the goal of having the historic cinema restored and brought back into use for the benefit of the people of Hackney is at last a real possibility. The success of this project will create a visual symbol that the local community have finally succeeded in reclaiming their neighbourhood from the drug barons and gunmen who have blighted the area for the last decade.
The Clapton Cinematograph Theatre dates from 1910 and was designed by George Duckworth, who was also the architect of the King’s Picture Palace in Kensal Rise (now demolished). In its early days it combined live music performances with short one-reel silent films. A 1912 poster advertising the cinema announces “A splendid Edison Drama, entitled At the Point of the Sword” together with “The Famous Banjoists – Miss Hilda Barry and Mr Harry Stuart”.
The Clapton Cinematograph Theatre was one of a number of early cinemas which were established in response to the Cinematograph Act of 1909, which required film presentations to be shown under controlled and licensed safety conditions, due to the highly inflammable nature of nitrate film. Among other cinemas of a similar age are the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road and the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley — both Grade II listed.
Early promotional material for the cinema shows a highly decorated frontage, to reflect the decorative mouldings on the adjacent public house, the White Hart (these may still be seen around the pub’s entrance). The cinema’s original facade is substantially hidden behind the later additional frontage, but some of the cinemas’s original mouldings may be seen (though painted black) on the part of the upper original facade still visible.