The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given a £100,000 development grant and the go ahead for just under £1m in funding to revive the birthplace of British cinema at the University of Westminster’s Grade II-listed Regent Street headquarters. 

University of Westminster flag

The restoration will create a new landmark for the British film industry and the venue will be re-opened to the public as a lively venue for film screenings as well as play host to a programme of lectures, workshops and activities. It will also provide an unprecedented opportunity for students at the University to showcase their work at a leading venue in the heart of London’s West End.

The project forms phase two of the restoration at the original site of the famous Royal Polytechnic Institution.

The original theatre at 309 Regent Street, dates from 1848 and was the venue chosen by the the Lumière Brothers to premiere the UK’s first ever public display of moving pictures in 1896. Designed by James Thomson, the architect of the original Polytechnic building, it cost £12,000 to build and houses one of the last remaining cinema organs still in its original location.  The Grade II-listed building itself dates back to 1838 and stands in the heart of one of London’s most culturally vibrant areas.  The completed restoration will reinforce the University’s position as a leading global centre for excellence in arts and film production.

The restored auditorium will showcase student work as well as cutting edge and historic cinema from around the world, and provide a venue for workshops and other activities. It will also function as a state-of-the-art lecture theatre equipped with the latest multi-media facilities. Alongside the recently restored Grand Entrance Hall and gallery spaces, this new facility will create a suite of striking venues befitting of these historic head-quarters in the heart of the West End.

The project has already seen a £1m donation from the MBI Al Jaber Foundation for phase one of the restoration completed in May 2010. Following this, the Quintin Hogg Trust donated £1m to the University’s campaign for phase two. The addition of the HLF award brings the total amount raised so far to more than £3.4m including matched funding from the Higher Education Funding Council’s scheme to support philanthropy in higher education. The University of Westminster estimates that the project will cost a further £2m to complete.

Sue Bowers, HLF head of region, commented: “We’re extremely pleased to give initial support to the project, which aims to bring a unique building back into use and preserve it for future generations. We shall watch the developing plans with interest”.

Tim Ronalds, director of Tim Ronalds Architects, the design team who will develop the scheme, said: “ This is a wonderful space in an important building …a dynamic place of creative daring, built upon a singular history of theatrical and optical innovation”.

Tim Bevan, co-chairman Working Title Films, said: “Because it’s a London landmark, it’s something we in the film industry are getting behind”.

Geoff Petts, vice-chancellor, University of Westminste, said: “The project encompasses the University’s linking of education to professional life. The enhanced space will deliver substantial flexibility for our university, allowing us to host prestigous exhibitions, public debates and a variety of student and stakeholder events. The University of Westminster has a rich and significant history in both education and the arts and the re-opening of the cinema will significantly increase our profile in the West End.”

For further information:

Sarah Evans-Toyne, Melanie Bradley or Lianne Robinson

Broadgate Mainland

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: +44(0) 20 7726 6111

Notes to editors

For further information about reviving the birthplace of British Cinema,

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage though innovative investment in projects with a lasting impact on people and places. As the largest dedicated funder of the UK’s heritage, with around £255million a year to invest in new projects and a considerable body of knowledge and evaluation over 15 years, we are also a leading advocate for the value of heritage to modern life. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our heritage. HLF has supported more than 30,000 projects allocating £4.5billion across the UK.

Tim Ronalds Architects was established in 1982 and has a reputation for buildings of outstanding quality and character. The practice specialises in arts, education and public projects, working closely with clients to develop inventive solutions to complex requirements. Their award-winning projects include Hackney Empire which received a Royal Fine Art Commission/BSkyB Conservation Building of the Year Award.

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