Consultation to showcase concepts for The Electric Cinema after backlash

A public session is being held today (May 16) to present early plans for 43-45, 47, and 51-55 Station Street, which includes the site of once England’s oldest working cinema.

When the doors of The Electric Cinema closed at the end of March, it was met with fury by the public as a developer was allegedly looking to “demolish most of Station Street – except for the Grade II listed Old Rep Theatre – to make way for a fifty-storey apartment block”.

Developer Glenbrook will showcase initial concepts at Birmingham Open Media, to show its hopes of “re-invigorating The Electric Cinema into a “sustainable and vibrant independent cinema” with new screens and a food and beverage offering that can “operate for another hundred years”.

The investment in the cinema, however, would be supported through the delivery of new built-to-rent homes. This is likely to be a tall building although the exact height and specification have not been decided.

Whilst Glenbrook’s interest does not include The Crown or the Old Rep, the developer says it has committed to collaborate with partners to transform Station Street into a vibrant cultural hub.

This may include supporting investment in the public realm to create an attractive pedestrianised street and helping others leverage private investment to unlock the opportunity at The Crown and Old Rep.

Following the session, Glenbrook has committed to collaborate with partners – including from Birmingham’s film and cultural industries – to support a feasibility study into The Electric.

The British Film Institute, the UK’s national body for cinema, has agreed to fund the study along with additional funding from the John Feeney Charitable Trust. The feasibility study will be undertaken with support from Flatpack Projects.

Sunny Johal, development director at Glenbrook, said: “We recognise The Electric’s significant cultural value and understand its importance goes beyond its fabric. It is a resilient, independent, cultural institution which has delivered over a century of cinema to the people of Birmingham. Re-invention and evolution are part of its DNA.

“Although we are at a very early stage of developing a concept and vision for Central Station Street, we understand the community wants to hear about our approach and help shape it. This initial public session is an important first step and builds on several discussions we have had with potential local partners.

“From here the intention will be to work closely with the film, culture, and heritage industry in the city to develop a detailed proposal which delivers a sustainable and vibrant future for The Electric and Central Station Street, with independent cinema at its heart.”

First opened in 1908 and rebuilt in 1937, the cinema was built in a converted taxi rank on Station Street and showed its first film on 27 December 1909.

It was run by the Markwick family, which made the decision to close the building, as its 88-year lease finished at the end of March.

The public session, being held at Birmingham Open Media, will set out initial concepts, principles, and ideas but will not include detailed proposals. These are likely to follow later in 2024, after engagement with film, culture, and heritage experts.

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