Date of closure: Circa April 2010
Address (for reference only):
Kingston Upon Thames
We don’t know exactly why Gala Kingston was suddenly closed in 2010, but we do know a bit about the building’s history. Prior to bingo, the venue was the Regal cinema which opened in 1932, its first film shown being a Laurel and Hardy feature. It was also a variety hall, and it had dressing rooms to accommodate performers, as well as as a cinema, and with a capacity of almost 2500, was a fairly large venue. Several famous organists made appearances at the hall to play on the Wurlitzer, including H. Robinson Cleaver, Harold Ramsay, Dudley Savage, Joseph Seal, Phil Park, and Sydney Torch.
In 1936 it was taken over by Union Cinemas, who themselves were taken over by ABC Cinemas, who were taking over pretty much the whole of the cinema trade during the decade. During the war the cinema did sustain some damage, but it was repaired.
In 1961 it was renamed ABC Cinema, and continued under the name until its closure in 1976. Coral took over, and from 1991 it started operating as Gala Bingo. The building is Listed Grade II, and although its future is uncertain local people are interested in protecting its heritage, and in May 2010 more than 800 people signed a petition against a new nightclub. Council workers also investigated a development project in the building in October 2010, which is good news as it means that at least the building has ‘someone watching over it’.
By Gareth Whieldon (October 2010)
Update – January 2011
Apparently there is someone watching over the building, and again its the local residents who are up in arms (again) about proposed plans to turn the premises into a 24 hour drinking venue with facilities for boxing and wrestling matches. They are understandably upset that they may have to put up with the fall out of drunken behaviour and noise. No-one to date has offered to re-open the bingo hall, and the council must be aware by now that they are losing business council tax, and the longer the situation continues the more likely they will be to settle for any business that comes along offering to take over the premises.
Gareth Whieldon (January 2011)
Update – September 2012
It appears that Kingston council are not willing to grab council tax at any cost. And, their refusal to grant an application to turn the old bingo hall into a night club will not be heard, as owner of the premises Mr Lumba has pulled out of the process. To the relief of residents in the area, their actions and those of the council have prevented what they felt would have been a cause of drunken behaviour and noise pollution. The Richmond Road Residents’ Association have been campaigning against a licensed venue being opened in the premises, and they appear to have won this battle at least. Although, perhaps the war won’t truly be over until the premises are taken over by a venture that meets the needs of the local residents.
Gareth Whieldon (September 2012)
Update – March 2013
The interior of the venue has now been completely gutted. Local residents have been allowed into the old building in an act of community consultation in an effort to to come to some agreement over what the venue should contain in the future. Suggestions have been made for an ice rink, although no agreement has been made other than the fact that it should be a project which serves the community, not just a money making venture.
Gareth Whieldon (March 2013)
Update – July 2013
The building is now owned by CNM Estates who recently held a community consultation meeting to discuss with local residents proposed usage of the now gutted building. Suggestions for the building’s new usage have included a boutique cinema, penthouse apartments, restaurant and heritage centre. When we hear of the outcome of the consultative process it will be posted on this page.
Gareth Whieldon (July 2013)
Update – September 2013
It seems that stakeholders are not entirely happy with the way the council is overseeing the future of the venue, and a group called Save The Regal has been formed. Organised by the Kingston Regal Arts Association, their aim is to re-open the venue as a community arts centre, their first objectives will include ideas for fundraising.
Gareth Whieldon (September 2013)
The Kingston Regal is an interesting building and as such has been much photographed, which means we have the good fortune to have been provided with two sets of images by cinema historians/photographers. The first two photographs are provided by Ian Grundy who has been photographing old cinemas for many years. The second set are by professional photographer Mo Malik who has recently also embarked on a mission to document cinemas. Regrettably the more recent set by Mo shows the building looking almost dilapidated, and we can only hope that someone steps in to rescue the venue before it lapses into a state beyond repair.
As you can see from the detail of the lighting image below, Kingston Gala was located in what used to be a rather ornate theatre. The detail on the plasterwork is probably moulded, but that still doesn’t detract from either its beauty, or the amount of work that would have gone into creating such an intricate mould. The lighting would appear to be original Art Deco style, and apparently well looked after. Despite the closure of the bingo club, which is bad news, at least the well maintained interior will continue to be kept in such good order.
Mo Malik Photographs
If you have any photos from this lost hall, be it of its interior, the staff, special events, parties, customers and more; and you’d like to share them here, please contact us to arrange adding them to the site.