The Elite

The Elite

Elite Picture House, Elite Cinema Club

The Elite Picture House stood next to Handsworth Library on Soho Road. It opened in summer 1913 and for its first few years was managed by a Mrs Worman, Birmingham’s first female cinema manager. Having been one of the earliest picture houses in the area it was the last in the city to convert to sound (two years after talkies arrived at the Futurist in 1929), and was quickly dwarfed by grander venues like the Regal. Nonetheless it managed to survive declining audiences, diversifiying into bingo, wrestling and music during the 1970s as well as becoming a popular South Asian cinema. Around that time promoter and DJ Cecil Morris began a regular series of latenight screenings of kung fu and blaxploitation films, one of the first to provide a regular programme of Black cinema. The Elite operated as a private cinema club for a short time, eventually closing around 1983. It was demolished during the 1990s.

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“Popularity of Silent House Voting on the popularity of the silent film as against the ” talkie ” is being indulged in by Birmingham patrons. W. Joseph Thompson manager of The Elite, Handsworth, shows a splendid return with a silent programme, together with the first-class orchestra. For the last few weeks records for the house have been broken, showing that silents still have a big following.”

“During the First World War I happened to be at the Elite, Handsworth, and in those days they only had a pianist. They were showing a lively picture and the piano player was playing ‘A Little Bit Off the Top’. Suddenly the picture changed to a sad part – a funeral march – but player had not noticed the change and she still went on playing ‘A Little Bit Off the Top, until the manager went and told her to change the tune.” 

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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