Located in the Filwood Park district of Knowle in Bristol, The Broadway Cinema was opened in 1938 by Roy Chamberlain. It seated 1,160 people, had a 30 feet wide proscenium and was equipped with a British Talking Pictures(BTP) sound system. It was built by local firm R J Hurford; Dennis Hurford and Roy Chamberlain acted as architects,.
The council put in a clause stating that a door at the rear of the cinema be included, with its own pay box, that was ‘desirable to enable the lower class of patrons to use the back entrance’.
It was re-furbished in 1961, and began part time bingo on several evenings a week. The cinema was also used for boxing matches and as a concert venue. Cinema use ended in 1971 and it became a full time bingo club. It was still operating as a bingo hall until 1991, but was closed soon after.
Its old Kalee 12 projectors and many of its chairs are stored in Bristol’s M Shed Museum.
I’ll be honest; Knowle is not an area of Bristol I know well nor an area of Bristol I ever go to. There’s good reason for this – there is literally nothing there of interest. It might also be controversial but there’s a reason people joke about needing a bulletproof vest when you go there!
One good thing about Knowle however is this – the Broadway Cinema. I know people tried this back in the day, and had no luck. I know we tried it in the few years leading up to cracking it in 2015, and had no luck. It seemed to be a pretty inpenetrable fortress. That was until a ghastly storm hit the city in 2015 and blew off part of the roof at the back
EP clocked it almost straight away and raised the alarm in our local group chat. One car, one pallet, lots of noise and a broken drainpipe later, we were in!
This report features photos from when we first did it back in 2015 and when we went back last year in 2019 after demolition started. The demo team smashed a huge hole in the wall at the back, right under the roof that we once got in through, meaning we were virtually able to walk straight in. Chicken dinner! Not many photos and I did seem to only take photos of the main areas, but I thought it would be nice to have an update regarding the demolition etc.
As for the future of the cinema… sadly it’s going to be demolished. That work has already started as you can see from some of the photos. The idea is that it’s going to contribute to the ‘regeneration’ of the Filwood Park area, so it’s likely something will be built in its place that can be used by the community as a whole.
Click here for a historic building record from Bristol City Council which details more about this and also features some old plans of the building – it’s pretty interesting. It also mentions some photos of the cinema taken in 2015 by some friends of mine; credits are at the end of the report.