Lights, camera, demolition

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Historic loss: Liverpool's first ever cinema is being knocked down to make way for a nine-storey hotel. Allen Kemp wants more to be done to save the site. Picture: Wesley Lonergan

Historic loss: Liverpool's first ever cinema is being knocked down to make way for a nine-storey hotel. Allen Kemp wants more to be done to save the site. Picture: Wesley Lonergan

ALLAN Kelb grew up watching films at Liverpool's Regal Cinema on Scott Street.

It was the city's first cinema and opened in 1911.

One of his fondest memories was seeing Ursula Andress walk out of the ocean in a bikini in the first James Bond film Dr No. 

But those days are long gone, and in the coming months, the building will be too.

The demolition of the former cinema was approved under a development application submitted in 2008.

The council is currently assessing a development application to construct a nine-storey hotel and commercial building in its place.

Mr Kelb said he was saddened that such a big part of his childhood could so easily be turned to dust.

"I have very fond memories of going there in the '60s and the '70s as a child and seeing Ursula Andress in a bikini," he said.

"I remember liking what I saw but being too young to understand why.

"I remember the first time I was allowed to go out at night with my mates: it was to see Easy Rider, then later Hammer Horror movie doubles, the first wave of 'R' certificate films, Deliverance, The Devils, Clockwork Orange etc.

"Its a real shame that the building may be torn down, and quite possibly turned into a useless, ugly office building.

"There is a real part of history there, and I think it should be maintained."

President of the Liverpool Historic Society, Judy Pack, said the cinema closed in the mid-1970s, but during its time it was "the place to be".

"I have spoken to people who used to frequent the cinema when they were younger and they always talk about the cuddle seat in the back row," she said.

"Back in those days it was the only way for many young couples to court.

"Liverpool's Picture Palace, as it was originally known, had some wonderful films but it was the television that killed the cinema."

Liverpool Council general manger Farooq Portelli said the former cinema was not listed as a heritage place in the Liverpool Local Environmental Plan 2008 or on any other statutory heritage register.

"As a result, consent was given for demolition of the building," he said.

"As part of the heritage review undertaken in 2005, council records identify that the only original fabric that appears to remain is the exterior.

"The interior of the structure has been dramatically altered for office use and the space no longer reflects its usage as cinema."

Mr Portelli said the council had in its possession photographic archival documentation of the building prepared by the owner as a condition of consent for demolition.

He said the document had been lodged with the council's heritage library and would be available to view in the near future.

Visit liverpoolchampion.com.au for a series of historic shots of the cinema, including "the cuddle seat".

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