Balsall Heath Picture House, Starlight Cinema
One of the earliest among a cluster of cinemas in the area, the Balsall Heath Picture House opened in November 1913 with The Forsaken and The Intruder. Prolific Birmingham architects Satchwell and Roberts redesigned it in 1932, adding a balcony and a waiting lounge, and in 1939 there was a change of ownership and it was renamed the Luxor Cinema. After closing down in 1961 it was taken on by Pakistani management and continued to operate as the Luxor, and later for a brief period as the Starlight. In 1979 qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan performed at the cinema, in what is thought to be his first performance outside the subcontinent. The cinema closed for good in 1983, and was demolished in the late 80s.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan performing Ya Hussain Ya Hussain at the Luxor in 1979.
Balsall Heath Road, Balsall Heath, B5 7NQ
“After I’d left school – I would’ve been about 13 and a half – a commissionaire from the Balsall Heath Picture House got in touch. The pianist – who was a lady pianist I believe – was taken ill and rushed to hospital, and I was asked whether I could go down and relieve the orchestra while they were on their break. I think I must have played at that cinema for about 15 months, accompanying the films while the orchestra went off for their usual 20 minutes interval. It was a question of playing for the Pathé Gazette or the Gaumont News, and after that a three-reeler comedy. I used to play a bit of rhythmic music to accompany the films, it could be a Charlie Chaplin film, it could be a Larry Semon film.”
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The demolition of the Luxor, included in Carola Klein’s 1989 film outlining Birmingham’s ambitions for a ‘media zone’.