It could be back to the future for Weybridge Hall, with plans in the works at Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) to return the centrally located, grand old building to its former glory as a cinema.
Luckily local plans are proceeding far more methodically than in the 1980s comedy classic Back to the Future, where a mishap with a time machine and madcap professor send a teenager back thirty years to scramble to set things right and return to the present.
In a move supported by the Weybridge Society, EBC, which owns the site, is now preparing plans to refurbish Weybridge Hall and transform it back into a cinema, as it once was nearly a century ago. The council expects to submit its planning application to be ready in January, with a decision to be made in spring.
The plan is to construct a two-screen cinema, with 40 and 60 seats apiece, at the ground floor level. An operator, unknown at the moment, would show different films daily on the two screens in an attempt to cater to a variety of audiences. Above the cinema, five flats would be renovated and remain in the ownership of Elmbridge to be used for social housing.
Because the Hall is located in a conservation area on Church Street, in what was once called the Queen’s Parade, it is understood that the planning application will not make any proposals to alter the external appearance of the Hall, though essential renovations would be undertaken, as in, for example, windows.
Weybridge Hall began life as a shop in 1899 built by Horace Thompson, whose descendants still correspond with the Weybridge Society. During WWI, the hall was used by the Gordon Watney Engineering Company, and in June 1920, Weybridge Hall had its grand opening as a cinema called Weybridge Kinema Theatre. Extended to 500 seats by the famous developer Walter Tarrant in 1929, the cinema was sold to County Cinema Chain and then became known as the King George’s Cinema. In 1937 the cinema changed its name to The County until it shut in the early 1950s. It was then purchased by the then Walton and Weybridge Urban Council to provide a public hall, a function it served as we know it until last summer when it was closed for financial reasons and eventual redevelopment.
Films shown at the official opening of the Kinema in June 1920 were ‘Across Canada with the Prince of Wales’ and Mary Pickford in ‘Ragamuffin.’ The first ‘talkies’ were shown there in 1927. The last film was reputedly ‘Gone with the Wind.’
In its later life as a community hall, the site was regularly used for events such as horticultural shows, lectures, jumble sales, film society meetings, dances, concerts and blood donor sessions. In the 1980s Weybridge Society, through the enthusiasm and hard work of member Jim Buckley, brought the cinema back to life by showing films on a number of occasions.