A cinema in Harborne, South Birmingham has been devastated by a shocking fire, leaving the local community to mourn the loss of a local historic landmark. Abandoned picture house was “neglected” by planners.

More than 50 fire fighters worked through the night to tackle the blaze at the historic Royalty Cinema in Harborne, a suburb of Birmingham.

Dramatic images released by West Midlands Fire Service showed smoke and flames tipped from the roof of the rare grade-II Art Deco building, as eight pumps tackled the blaze – Harborne High Street has been re-opened by adjacent Greenhill Road.

Harborne resident Jennifer Payne was stunned when she found out about the fire was at the cinema, which has been at the centre of a community effort to restore the historic building.

“My house is right behind it, I grew up in it’s shadow and now it won’t be there anymore,” said the 27 year old, who works in television.

“The Royalty is famous around here – I’ve even played bingo in there a few times! Harborne is a really nice area in Birmingham and that building has always stood out – it’s quite an important part of the high street. We were hoping it might be opened again one day – I’m devastated that it’s gone.”

Di Lynne tweeted that the fire was a “Terrible shame”. “So sad to loose another piece of history,” she added.

Nick Drake filmed the fire as the incident unfolded. He said it was “very sad” to see the iconic Art Deco building go up in flames.

The Grade II Royalty Cinema was built in 1930 in a period of redevelopment for the British film industry – the government introduced the Cinematograph Act in 1927 to recharge national filmmaking in the face of the antagonistic influence of Hollywood.

But very few cinemas from the era survived, and the Royalty was one of the last. It was converted into a bingo hall in 1963, and subsequently remained empty for many years.

Local conservation group the Royalty Harborne Trust have been in discussions with the heritage Lottery fund to restore it back to a working picture house.


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