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Brighton Society


THE HIPPODROME COULD PROVIDE 8 MORE CINEMAS IN CENTRAL BRIGHTON, BECOMING AN ENTERTAINMENT HUB, AFTER HAVING BEEN EMPTY SINCE 2007.

ALTERNATIVLY THE HIPPODROME IS THE ONLY THEATRE LEFT IN BRIGHTON APART FROM THE THEATRE ROYAL. IT BOASTS A MAGNIFICENT FRANK MATCHAM AUDITORIUM.

It has been given the highest rating for a theatre at risk by the Theatres Trust. The auditorium is intact. The big question is who will fund the restoration of the Hippodrome as a theatre? The Brighton Society are captivated by the history of the Hippodrome. We are interested in its history and its architectural features.

The proposals for a cinema complex open up a new public space linking it to Duke’s Lane. The new buildings would be inserted into the streetscapes of Middle Street and Ship Street.

The Hippodrome as a Multiplex
The major change proposed which affects the existing character of the building is the insertion of a new floor at a higher level than the original raked floor and the existing bingo hall floor. The Brighton Society is concerned about the relationship of the raised floor with the stage, the proscenium arch and the balconies.

The richly decorated balcony walls may lose their existing ‘overlooking’ relationship with the main space, and will visually appear as a low perimeter bulkhead, semi-concealed behind tables and chairs and subject to potential damage. This proposal could completely disguise the character of the original balconies and reduce them to insignificant visual elements within the whole space. The Brighton Society could not support this part of the proposal.

How is access proposed to the areas behind the balconies? Would the balcony fronts be cut away? Flights of steps seem to be indicated on the sketches, but it is not clear how these might relate to the existing balcony fronts. How will the central bar and restaurant be serviced, and is the central space it occupies large enough to accommodate kitchens and storage? If not, where will these be located?

We understand the need to retain the possibility of conversion back to theatre, or some other use, in the future. We have serious reservations about the feasibility of this, in view of the massive construction of the cinema enclosures required to provide adequate acoustic separation between the cinemas, particularly the three cinemas proposed below the new floor.

The new floor could be dropped by about half a level. This would create a better separation between the new floor and the balconies, and allow the balconies to retain their existing identity and function as separate spaces overlooking the main floor area at a different level from it. It might be possible to re-align the three cinemas below the new floor in a way which relates to the circular plan profile of the dome above – like segments of a circle.

Despite the £18million plan to bring the building back into use as an eight-screen cinema The Theatres Trust fears the venue could disapper for ever if urgent works are not carried out. The Trust places it high on its ‘At Risk’ register.

The Brighton Society is not sure about the proposals for re-furbishing Hippodrome House, what uses will it be put to, and to what extent will historical interior features will be retained? The Brighton Society has no objection to the proposals for the Middle Street elevation of the Hippodrome.

The Brighton Society will be interested to see how the plans for the Hippodrome develop, but believe that this is the Hippodrome’s last chance of survival.

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