Imperial Picture Palace, New Imperial, ABC Imperial, Liberty, CAVE
The Imperial Picture Palace opened on the corner of Moseley Road and Clifton Road in January 1914, joining a cluster of picture houses in Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook. It was substantially rebuilt in the 1920s, becoming the New Imperial, and according to press reports it had a habit of catching fire – at least four times between 1918 and 1947.
In June 1936 it was sold by Brettel Cinemas to ABC. By the early 60s audiences were in steady decline, and ABC leased the venue to Jaswant Sidhu of the Eastern Film Society from 1963. It became one of the most prominent South Asian cinemas in the city, hosting a number of Indian and Pakistani stars during the next decade.
By 1980 the venue had reverted to showing Hollywood movies along with kung fu double-bills, and also hosted gigs by bands including New Order, the Psychedelic Furs and The Fall. It closed as the Imperial in 1983, and reopened shortly afterwards as an arts centre called the CAVE (Community and Village Entertainment) with funding from the probation service. The programme included a mix of dance, live music and film, and it shut its doors for good in 1995 when The Drum in Newtown opened.
516 Moseley Road, B12 9AH
“Another addition was made to the number of picture houses in Birmingham and district yesterday afternoon, when the Imperial Picture Palace, Moseley Road, was formally opened. The house is built on up-to-date lines, is very cosy, and the interior is nicely decorated. Last evening, an enjoyable programme was submitted, the pictures being chosen with excellent taste and discrimination. A dramatic subject, ‘Satan’s Castle,’ occupied first place among the films.”
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“It was nearly the ‘last picture show’ for a Birmingham cinema threatened by the video craze. English and Asian film goers were staying away in droves from the Imperial Cinema Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, until someone had the bright idea of turning it into the city’s latest rock venue. Now the cinema is to hold one of its largest concerts since the seats downstairs were removed and bopping dancers moved in. Birmingham rock bands The Beat and Africa Pyramid Star are to play at the Imperial tonight, and 1,000 fans are expected to turn up.”