The Rex Cinema, Bedminster

In May 2013 BaRAS undertook a building survey of a former cinema in North Street, Bedminster, prior to its demolition.

The Rex Cinema was an unusual example of a civilian cinema built during the Second World War. The cinema was designed in the late 1930s and was probably already under construction when the war started. Although the original designs had to be scaled back due to wartime shortages, the building was complete enough to open in December 1940.

The cinema had only been open for four months when Bristol was hit by the devastating ‘Good Friday Air Raid’, which killed 180 people, and left numerous buildings in ruins, one of which was the Rex Cinema. Luckily the building was not beyond repair, and by the summer of 1941 it had re-opened.

Post-war building restrictions remained in force until the mid 1950s, and it wasn’t until 1956 that the balcony shown on the original plans was finally built. However, by this point cinemas were suffering from a dramatic decline in attendance and by the end of the 1970s the audience was less than a tenth of its pre-war peak. The Rex closed in 1980 and was subsequently refurbished as a bingo hall, which operated until 2008.

This cinema was very much a product of its time — built quickly, with few aesthetic embellishments — but none-the-less, it was a functional building which remained in use for nearly 70 years. Since the closure of the bingo hall, the building has become dilapidated and will now be cleared to make way for a new mixed-use residential and commercial development.

former rex cinema at bedminster looking south across North Street

Plate 1 The former Rex Cinema, looking south across North Street

circle level balcony of former rex cinema at bedminster

Plate 2 Circle level balcony, looking south

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