Gaiety cinema

History notes

By John Blackwell,

The Gaiety Cinema opened on 24th April 1937. It was constructed to serve the rapidly expanding housing estates of northern Brighton. Situated at the junction of Hollingdean and Lewes Roads, next to the Allen Arms (now The Counting House) public house, it covered the site now occupied by the Vogue gyratory road system.

The cinema had a 15m (50ft) neon lit façade, that was particularly effective at night. It seated 1,400 with the car park, a reflection of increasing car ownership, now covered by Sainsbury's.

Programmes changed twice weekly with an 'A' and 'B' film, the main and supporting feature, plus a newsreel and a short documentary; a real evening out.

With the spread of television in the sixties, audiences declined and so did the Gaiety. Following a change of name to the Vogue, live striptease and sex films were shown in the early seventies but this could not avert closure in 1979 and demolition in 1983

This page was added on 22/03/2006.
Comments about this page
My own father, Herbert Hobden, now 89 and still living in Brighton, managed the Gaiety cinema from 1959 to 1967.
By Alan Hobden (22/08/2004)
I remember seeing all of the Cliff Richard films at this cinema. My Nan lived in Hartington Road and a Saturday visit to her quite often had a trip down the road to the Gaiety.
By Pam Pantzer (20/05/2005)

I worked at the 'Vogue' as a projectionist from 1974 until it's closure. It was owned at that time by the 'classic' Cinema Group which also ran the 'Classic' cinema in western road, now 'Waitrose' where I also worked. I learnt my trade at the cinema, and am currently at the 'Duke Of York' cinema in Preston Circus.

By Jimmy Anderson (05/02/2007)

I grew up in Dewe Road and went to the Gaiety on many occasions. I remember being taken by my mother to see Cliff Richard in "The Young Ones" after school one afternoon. I also remember seeing some Carry On films there and also the Beatles' films "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help".

By Pat Mounce (07/02/2007)

How well I remember ,as a child,the Gaiety Cinema with great affection in the 1956 -1959 era.What great value with two films, sometimes one being an Edgar Lusgerton film detailing great crimes of the time.How good were the surroundings of the cinema and going upstairs was a real treat.I especially remember the sofas one could sit in whilst waiting for the film to end before going in. I recall having to ask an adult to take us in if an A film was being shown, something that would not even be entertained these days.

By Dave Collins 24/09/07 (24/09/2007)

I am sure this cinema was also called Ace at one time. Am I right? It would have been in the early 70s I think.

By Maggie Williams (15/01/2008)

Being raised in a childrens home in Freshfield Road, the pictures was a wonderful escape most Saturdays and The Gaiety was one of those. It was quite a long walk there and back and in the 50s it cost nine pence of my 10 pence pocket money but was well worth it. I was very sorry when it was demolished.

By Chris Troak (nee Morane) (20/01/2008)

The Gaiety..Fantastic place. I used to go down there on the 149a bus with my mates from Moulscoomb. It was around a shilling to get in, 5p today. It was the first cinema I went to. Sink The Bismark. My dad took me back in the early 1960s, it was the first of many films I saw there. If you look there now the only remaining part of it that's left is the wall with the paintings on, part of the counting house, it ran on the inside of the cinema entrance up to the doors that led inside the auditorium. So the sceen room would now be in the middle of the road outside Sainsburys car park entrance. Paradise Lost!

By Martin Phillips (22/02/2008)

I would just like to agree with Maggie Williams' entry, that yes the Gaiety was also called "Ace" before it was called the Vogue Cinema. It certainly brings back memories to me as it was local to me living in Hollingdean.  It did indeed cost 9d to watch a film and for that 9d, you got a supporting film to boot, along with God Save the Queen at the end! It was the first cinema I ever went to. My mother worked there for quite a time as an usherette when it was the Gaiety, and it was a wondeful cinema. I saw great films such as the Beatles' "Help" and "Polyanna". It's a shame that it no longer exists!

By Debbie Cheal (19/05/2008)

I once threw up at a Beatles film. I was young and ill, rather than due to the content of the film. I also saw Zulu there and that film seemed to always be on.

By Ken Valder (09/09/2008)

I saw the Sound of Music there in around 1965 with my Nan Connie Long (Nee Granger). It is still my favourite film and brings back fond memories of my Nan.
I also used to go to Saturday morning pictures there and remember one morning a rather rude film being put on by mistake to the amusement of a large group of ten year olds.

By Paul Hubbard (04/11/2008)

We lived at 98a Lewes Road, where I was born, and my Mum was an usherette at the Gaiety. From 1960 onward I remember being taken there by my big sister Stephanie, often twice a week! This was because Dad was a shift worker, and was asleep during the day, and as a noisy three/four-year-old, it was the only way they could get some peace! We also used to use the emergency exit from the car park, where we would also play. It was a huge area, and was covered in sticks of carbon from Cox's Pill Factory. Sheer heaven!

By Penny Hajduk (04/01/2009)

I grew up in Newmarket Road so the Gaiety/Vogue was on my doorstep. I've got very fond memories of Saturday morning pictures; The Flashing Blade, Champion The Wonder Horse et al. I also remember  first-run major films like Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and many others.

By Andy Walker (28/06/2009)

I have just been reading all of the stories about the old Gaiety Cinima. I remember it as a child, teenager etc, then it closed, to become a bingo hall for a while. Many years later when I left school I was employed at the Lewes Road Sawmills opposite the old Gaiety, one of the stories written above is signed Chris Troak (nee Morane.) I used to live in Cowley Drive, South Woodingdean as a child and teenager. May I enquire if you married a Chris Morane who at some time lived at the top of Cowley Drive, I apologise if I've got it wrong.

By Paul Fleet (07/10/2009)

The Gaiety Cinema was one of my favourites. During school holidays a friend of mine, Alan Inkpen, and I went to see ‘The Long Ships’ not knowing it was an A certificate. We waited outside with four other young lads who we did not know. An old chap came along and we gave him our money and told the cashier we were with him. He was told by the usherette that we must all sit together. After she went he moved back two rows and fell asleep. Happy days.

By TONY LIDBETTER (27/12/2009)

I lived at 31 Hollingdean Road back in the 50s and I was one of those kids that went in the back door when another boy opened it. My backyard was the car park..I saw everything that was going on there..the ushers checking the doors etc etc. Good memories. I went to Fawcett school.

By peter haber (28/01/2010)

I lived at 39 Newmarket Road and the Gaiety was directly opposite on the other side of the Lewes Road. This was around 1951 to 1955 at a guess. It was a great place and I too remember "bunking" in the back door when a pal who had paid opened the fire door to let us in. Goodness me, I was 8 to 10 years old then. Halcyon days or is it just plain nostalgia?

By Ashley Hanmer (21/05/2010)

I lived in Riley Road, off Bear Road from 1942 to 1963. I loved the Gaiety cinema. Went there with Mum many times. I loved to look at the 'stills' outside to decide if the film was worth going to see. The red art deco settees seemed to be very posh to me. One day I went there on my own and the person in the row behind me coughed all the way through the film. Two days later I was very ill with scarlet fever.

By Maureen Sweet (07/09/2010)

I think I'm going crazy about all this history, but I love Brighton very much, that's my excuse. I couldn't locate the "wall with the paintings on, part of the counting house, it ran on the inside of the cinema entrance up to the doors that led inside the auditorium." Where should it be now?

By Ekaterina Guseva (24/09/2010)

Wow what memories! I lived in Princes Road and we used to walk down Richmond Road and skulk through the coal yard, slide down the coal chute to reach the wall at the back of the car park, one would then pay and open the exit door for us to sneak in - I suppose we were about 10 or 11 and thought it great fun. Maybe we deserved a good hiding but it was the early years of the war and everything was rationed even pocket money was in short supply. I ripped the seat out of my trousers on one slide down that coal chute and I did get a good hiding from Mum over that incident. Great fun we had in those days and we never got into any real bother.

By Garry Lockwood (07/03/2011)

I often went to the Gaiety and indeed saw Rock Around the Clock there. It was 9d to get in downstairs and 1/- to go upstairs. Needless to say I didn't go upstairs. That 3d difference made it prohibitive to most children those days. It is frightening to think we hovered outside when an A film was showing and asked complete strangers; 'can you get me in Mr?' It would have been a risky thing to do those days as it is now. But happy memories of those times endure.

By Linda Keet-Harris (nee Keats) (22/07/2011)

I saw my first film at The Gaiety when my Dad took me to see 'Thunderball' there. It was on a Saturday afternoon and it was packed. As we lived in Moulsecoomb it was the first cinema leading into town so we saw many films there in the 60s. 'A Hard Days Night', 'Help', 'Zulu', all the Cliff Richard films and the Bond films as well. I remember it being 1/6d in the stalls and 2 shillings up in the circle. When I saw 'A Hard Days Night' I remember queuing outside The Allen Arms pub next door and being told it was full and we would have to wait until the next showing a couple of hours later!

By Paul Clarkson (03/02/2012)

My Dad also took me to see my first film at the Gaiety, I was probably about 7 (about 1954), and the film was called "John and Julie", about a couple of kids who ran away to London to see the Queen's Coronation. It was a lovely film, and a great cinema, and a special time for me and Dad to do something together without my younger brother and sister. The sweet shop next door, was terrific, so much choice. The wide winding staircase, used to make me pretend to act like a film star making a grand entrance. What a long time ago.

By Sandie Foster (05/02/2012)

Yes it was a grand entrance wasn't it? In fact a couple of years ago a film was shown as part of the Brighton Festival called 'The Adventures of Jane' which was made in 1949, and right at the start you see the front of The Gaiety. The film also shows parts of Brighton station and the plot is a bit thin but it is worth seeing just for the parts filmed in Brighton.

By Paul Clarkson (07/02/2012)

One of my memories of the Gaiety was the usherettes walking down the aisles spraying the 'Flit' gun in the air. This reduced the problem of going out with more than you came in with. I also remember that the seats were quite plush compared to other cinemas.

By Dave Hamblin (20/03/2012)

My Grandfather Harry Watts was the foreman in charge of the building of this wonderful cinema, he was a master builder, I remember thinking it was like a special theatre with its sweeping staircase. I used to always go there with my brother and gang to watch all the films we could afford to out of our pocket money.

By Linda Strickland (nee Brown) (26/10/2012)

My mum used to work at the Gaiety in about 1965/66 as an usherette. I remember catching the bus down from school (St.Josephs) with my sister every afternoon after school to meet our mum! We would have to wait at the back of the cinema for the movie to finish (saw Sound of Music sooo many times) and for mum to finish work to go home...fond memories. 

By Therese Sewell (nee Groves) (26/11/2012)

Does anyone remember the manager there call Douglas Edwards quite an imposing gent with his nose in the air very tall greased back hair and a goatee.

By Christine Baker (03/01/2013)

Hi there, can anybody tell me when the Lewes Road Sawmills burnt down? My wife's uncle lived at 6, Newmarket Road until the day of the blaze, when he and his wife had to move out for safety reasons.

By Graham Maskell (13/03/2013)

I believe the fire was in 1974 or 1975. I do remember it was on a Saturday night as my wife-to-be had to get a number 13 bus home to Coldean and I lived in Upper Lewes Road at the time and the buses were all being diverted. Hope this helps.

By Paul Clarkson (15/03/2013)

Hi Paul, yes thanks, the dates fit in with when my wife's uncle had to leave Newmarket Road. By the way, did you go to the Secondary Technical School in Hanover Terrace? if you did - so did I!

By Graham Maskell (16/03/2013)

Hi Graham, another piece of info about the fire was that I do remember that the area was evacuated as the fire services feared for the safety of the petrol station at the bottom of Gladstone Place due to the heat. In answer to your question, no I didn't go to the Secondary Tech but my brother Allan did. He attended there in the late 60's, I went to Moulsecoomb Secondary. I did, however, attend the summer fete's that were held in Hanover Terrace and I posted a story on the 'Hanover Terrace School' page 'Later to be Brighton Secondary Technical School' about how my Dad (Dennis) used to run a stall. My other connection with your school was that I was taught by Peter Stockbridge at Moulsecoomb, a fabulous Drama teacher and actor. I do believe that our Maths teacher Mr Rex went to the Secondary Tech after he had finished at Moulsecoomb. A brilliant Maths teacher but feared by all!

By Paul Clarkson (18/03/2013)

I remember Lewes Road Sawmills. I lived in Riley Road and had a hamster and went to the sawmills regularly to get sawdust for it. Sometimes I paid 6d for a huge bagful but often I was told to 'help myself' for nothing. Gathering the sawdust meant scrabbling in the pile underneath the large circular saw. Ha health and safety then! This must have been about 1953.

By Maureen Sweet (30/03/2013)

I also have very fond memories of The Gaiety Cinema. My uncle was the very first manager there in 1937 and I still have the first program advertising (Fred Astair & Ginger Rodgers, in Swing Time.) Although that was  a little before my time, I enjoyed many happy times there later on in the 50-60s and do remember as other people do, standing outside waiting for someone to take me in to an A movie.

By Sheila E (20/04/2017)