The Carlton

The Carlton

Carlton Picture Theatre

The Carlton had a striking half domed entrance and an exterior of blue brick and terracotta. Numerous local contractors were involved – including Bryants construction firm and upholstery by WW Turner – and it was the first Birmingham cinema with a lift to take patrons up to the balcony.

On 25 October 1940 it received a direct hit during one of the city’s heaviest nights of bombing, killing nineteen people in the audience for the Dorothy Lamour film Typhoon. Rebuilt in 1943, it continued to operate as a cinema until 1980 with a focus on South Asian programming during the 1970s. During the early 80s it hosted a number of concerts by bands including the Au Pairs. UB40 and Amazulu, before being demolished in 1985.

A memorial garden now stands on the site, with nineteen slates representing those killed in 1940.

Malcolm Summerhayes describes his mother’s experiences as an ambulance driver who attended the scene after the Carlton Cinema bombing.

Taunton Road, Sparkbrook, B12 8DQ

“”A direct hit on the stalls of the cinema led, it is feared, to a number of deaths and injuries, some of them of a serious nature. The performance was in progress at the time, and the bomb – a high-explosive – tore through the roof of the building and landed in the auditorium a few yards in front of the screen…

The more serious casualties were among those who were sitting near to the screen, and the force of the explosion threw the occupants of these seats in all directions. The entrance hall became an improvised first aid station, and here willing volunteers worked heorically to tend the injured as they were brought out from the auditorium…

Looking round the auditorium this morning one could fully realise how terrific must have been the force of the explosion. The first dozen rows of seats were wrecked. There was a gaping hole in the cinema screen, doors to the left and right of the proscenium were blown away and there was an ugly hole in the roof through which the sky could be seen.”

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“”The Carlton, Sparkbrook, opened a few weeks ago and makes a handsome addition to the list of Birmingham’s modern kinemas. It is built fan-shape with a bold frontage to Taunton Road and designed by Horace G Bradley, architect of many picture theatres in the Midlands. The exterior is of blue Brockley brick with terra-cotta facings, the severity of the facade being relieved by an archway entrance to the vestibule and foyer. Both in design and decorative treatment the foyer is a work of art. Its domed ceiling, panelled and embellished with Old English figure paintings, imparts a Georgian character.”

We’d love to hear about your film-going experiences in Birmingham. From memories of amazing screenings or communal experiences, to grand days out at the pictures or more personal recollections. How has visiting the cinema shaped your life, and your experience of our city?

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