Mustard Nightclub, Coventry
The best part of a century before the stereoscopic blockbuster Avatar hit cinema screens, Coventry's Alexandra Theatre was experimenting with 3D films. The first were shown in the 1920s and in the 1950s, the projectors and screen were adapted for the latest type of 3D films. The audience viewed the screen through polarised glasses. In 1955 the projectors and screen were further adapted to show CinemaScope, complete with stereophonic sound. It wasn't the first CinemaScope film to be shown in Coventry (that honour went to the former Gaumont, later the Odeon, in Jordan Well), but the Alexandra was, for many years, the only cinema in Coventry with full stereophonic sound.
The cinema, originally the Alexandra Picturedrome (often referred to as the 'flea pit'), was opened in 1917 by Elijah Strong, previously landlord of the General Wolfe Hotel in Foleshill Road. The front of the building was formerly a coffee tavern in which the first meeting of Coventry Labour Party was held, with the cinematograph hall added behind. At first the accompaniment to the silent films was just a piano, but as audience tastes became more sophisticated, the piano gave way to a small pit orchestra.
When Elija Strong died, the Alexandra was acquired by Harold T.A. Philpot in 1934/'35 as part of his Philpot Circuit. The cinema was damaged in the air raids of 1940 and Philpot sold the theatre to Hugh Orr. Government restrictions meant that the building could only be made weather-proof, but seats and projection equipment were acquired from other bombed cinemas and the Alexandra reopened in January 1941. After reopening, it was run with the Opera House (which Orr had also acquired after it was damaged in an air raid) as Coventry's Intimate Theatres.
In 1968, the cinema closed for complete modernisation and reopened in 1970 as Theatre One. Two years later it became a twoscreen cinema, then in 1974, a third auditorium was added putting Theatre One among the first triple-screen cinemas in the Midlands.
After the death of Hugh Orr in 1979, the cinema was taken over by its manager, Brian Saunders, who, with three other city businessmen, formed their own company, Welondale Entertainments Ltd. By October 1982, the company was forced to go into liquidation, but Brian was able to form another company and buy back Theatre One from the receiver. His small cinema went on to benefit from a new scheme in which it got one in eight new releases and also enjoyed a boom after the Cannon (formerly the ABC) cinema, in Hertford Street, closed in 1988.
A year later Brian gave the place a £65,000 facelift, the most extensive since his takeover, which included redecorating the entire building, replacing hundreds of seats and laying down more than 800 yards of gold and brown carpet. Ageing green tiles were replaced with silver and black ones to match the aluminium pillars which covered part of the building.
But in 1991 he sold the cinema and it was turned into the Mustard nightclub, which later folded.
Brian, who also owned former Busters nightclub in Coventry, went on to become the star of Channel 4's documentary series A Place in Greece in 2004 when he was filmed starting a new life in Crete with partner Andrew Sutton. The cinema has now been demolished.