The Astoria cinema opened in 1933 with a showing of Alexander Korda's "The Private lives of Henry VIII" and closed in 1977 after a showing of "A Star is Born". It then became the Coral Social Club and then Gala Bingo until its final closure in 1997. It has remained boarded up and unused since and, although Grade II listed in 2000 as being of special interest on account of its art deco design, it has been allowed to badly deteriorate both inside and out. The best chance of saving it came in 2001when it was bought by the founders of "Stomp", but plans for refurbishment as a concert, cabaret, and film venue foundered when projected restoration costs reached £6M.
Coming to the present, a recent report to the planning committee said no organisation had been able to demonstrate viable plans for renovating the Astoria and Councillors yesterday agreed to allow demolition on the grounds that it has become genuinely redundant.
The replacement six to two storey building is planned to provide the most energy-efficient offices in the city so far, scoring a national ‘excellent’ eco-rating. Rather like Brighton’s Jubilee Library it will maximise use of passive solar heating, plus natural ventilation through a ‘chimney’ effect. An ‘earth duct’ in the basement will circulate either hot or cold air according to need, and rain and waste water from hand basins will be used to flush loos.
New buildings to the rear will drop to two storeys to ensure improvements in outlook from the nearby North Laine conservation area and to better blend with adjacent historic streets. The development will also include a courtyard garden, a café and a community meeting room. As well as the main office space, there will be about a dozen starter units, aimed mainly at creative industries, small digital media and IT companies. It is expected to bring almost 200 jobs and substantially improve the surrounding area.
See Council press release.
Other information from the New Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Rose Collis.