Washington Luxury Cinema

1-3 Washington Buildings, Stanwell Road,
Penarth, CF64 2AD

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Splott (Cardiff) Cinema Co. Ltd.

Architects: Harry Teather

Firms: Teather & Jones

Functions: Office Space, Retail

Styles: Art Deco

Nearby Theaters

Washington Luxury Cinema

The coastal town of Penarth, a few miles from Cardiff was home to cinemas owned by the Willmore brothers from London in particular the Windsor Kinema (1914-ca1957) and this fine building of 1938, the Washington Luxury Cinema, taking its name from a hotel previously on the site.

Built to a very high standard it had closed by 1977 and became an EMI bingo club. It later housed a night club and in 1990 survived a threat of demolition.

In 1994 the empty building was damaged by fire, just as plans were underway to convert it into retail and office use. In 1995 these plans were carried out, the auditorium was totally gutted and the balcony removed. A discount store occupies the premises under a suspended ceiling.

The front-of-house building has been converted into a cafe, art gallery,and offices but most external features survive. In 2013, the art gallery moved to the Pier Pavilion, part of which was re-opened as a cinema.

Contributed by Geoff

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 8, 2008 at 4:30 am

Some recent photographs of the former Washington Luxury Cinema:
Two night views
Top of facade detail:
A current 2007 view of the facade
View link

geoffjc on October 21, 2008 at 2:48 pm

In October 2008 work had begun to create a “Tesco Express” store in the building and publicity for the apartments previously planned had been removed.

edithapearce on March 28, 2009 at 2:35 am

In the mid 60s this cinema possessed a very go ahead manager named Alan Watts. He introduced bingo and combined this with a film show. Thus if you played bingo on bingo nights, you could stay on and watch the main film feature free of charge.There were also bingo only sessions on Sunday evenings and Wednesday afternoons.
The projection box contained GB Kalee 12 projectors with individual mercury arc rectifiers. There was also a slide lantern. Change over between projectors was by means of combined choppers (sound and vision on one lever). A skilled projectionist named Larry operated the box through out the 60s.

edithapearce on March 28, 2009 at 2:42 am

The Washington was indeed a very luxurious cinema. It was well carpeted, the drapes and masking were operated from the box and it contained a lift between the balcony and the foyer.

The Washington was also one of the few cinemas to contain a central vacuum cleaning system to clean the pile carpets. All around the walls were sockets connected to a central suction engine located in the basement. Thus cleaning the cinema’s extensive carpeting was very easy.

edithapearce on March 28, 2009 at 2:47 am

Sadly, in the mid 1960s, the Washington manager Alan Watts was killed in a car accident at Thornhill near Cardiff. The cinema was never the same after his tragic demise and went into a noticeable terminal decline.

geoffjc on October 18, 2013 at 8:20 am

The art gallery appears to have re-located to the newly refurbished Pier Pavilion which also includes a totally new 68 seat digital cinema.(Listed separately) The Washington building will continue as a cafe and Tesco store with another retail unit still available.

Bevwez on April 3, 2014 at 8:55 am

My seven year old twins are doing a school project on the Washington Cinema, does anybody who knew it in its glory have any interesting stories or information they wouldn’t mind them quoting? It’s hard to find much about it, it would be great to discover something nobody else knows. Many thanks. It’s due in on Monday 7th April!

geoffjc on October 2, 2017 at 5:54 am

The small restaurant adjoining the Washington is now trading as “Willmore’s”– the name of the family who operated Penarth’s cinemas.

Biffaskin on December 4, 2022 at 11:54 am

The Washington Cinema was built to the side of the hotel, which remained open, on the former tennis courts. The hotel can be seen in the architect’s original drawing of 1936 to the left of the cinema.

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