Old Filwood cinema to be demolished

Main image: the old cinema on Filwood Broadway. Picture Julie Flanagan.

The former cinema and bingo hall on Filwood Broadway which has been empty for over 20 years is scheduled for demolition this summer.

A Bristol City Council statement in a leaflet delivered to residents in the surrounding roads said: “…Detailed surveys have found the building is unsafe and has asbestos throughout making it a hazard to the community.

“It’s no longer practical to refurbish the building and bring it back into use. The building has had several break-ins and is a site for anti-social behaviour and has had costly emergency repairs.”

The cinema has fond memories for many residents first opening its doors in 1938. It was built as part of the Filwood Broadway development which was also to include a swimming pool, library and church.

Seating 1,160 people the auditorium had two levels – and over the years was also host to concerts and boxing matches. From the 1960s it also held bingo on Saturdays and was sold in the 1980s to become a full time bingo hall. It finally closed in 1994 but some of the original seats and projectors can be seen in the MShed.

It has lain empty and decaying and although some buyers have approached the council – it has always been too costly a project for anyone to take on.

Recent plans from local councillors Chris Jackson and Jeff Lovell had hoped to help bring the building into use as storage for a proposed pop-up factory on the old petrol station site – but it was found the building was too unsafe.

Demolition is expected to take around 26 weeks this summer, with specialist contractors brought in and dust managed by “water mist suppression” and plastic sheeting.

The council says the community will be informed of progress and activities on site while the work is taking place. Shops should be able to operate as normal and traffic will be limited to certain times of day.

After demolition, the site will be used to “support the regeneration of Filwood Broadway”.

The council held a drop in at Filwood Coffee House on 25 April for residents to come and ask questions about the plans.

Cllr Chris Jackson said: “We’ve had four or five people interested in the cinema to redevelop over the past four to five years, but as soon as they see how bad it is they walk away….It would be too hard because of the asbestos.

“It’s a shame as I used to go on Saturday mornings for the Penny Club and my mum used to use if for bingo. I’m gutted, Jeff (Cllr Lovell) and I tried everything to keep it but it’s in such a bad state.

“A lot of people have asked when it’s going to be knocked down because it’s an eyesore…”

Philip Bulejko (59) who came to the drop in said: “I’ll be glad to see the back of it. It’s a monstrosity. You look at it and it makes you feel depressed like we are in the Bronx in New York.

“I remember seeing Zulu over there and we used to watch the old black and white Batman and Robin…”

With this year the 80th anniversary of Filwood Community Centre and Broadway there are already community projects underway to celebrate the occasion. An arts project is planned to capture people’s memories of the building and its role in community life.

The council says it has commissioned an Independent Heritage Assessment to create a record of the building which will be kept in the Bristol Archives in Filwood Library and on the Council’s website.

For information about the demolition email: housing.delivery@bristol.gov.uk