Art Deco - The Royalty Harborne

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Art Deco

Located in the Harborne district of southwest Birmingham, at the corner of High Street and Greenfield Road. The Royalty Cinema was opened on 20th October 1930 with Maurice Chevalier in "The Love Parade". It was built for and operated by the local independent Selly Oak Pictures Ltd.

The Royalty Cinema was taken over by the Associated British Cinemas(ABC) chain in March 1935. ABC closed the cinema on 2nd November 1963 with Cliff Robertson in "P.T.109".

It was converted into a Mecca Bingo Club, and in 2010 it was operating as a Gala Bingo Club.

In recent years it has been closed and left unused.

But what is 'Art Deco'?

(This content was originally written in association with the exhibition 'Art Deco: 1910-1939', on display at the V&A South Kensington from 27 March - 20 July 2003.)

The term Art Deco, coined in the 1960s, refers to a style that spanned the boom of the roaring 1920's and the bust of the Depression-ridden 1930's. Art Deco represented many things for many people. It was the style of the flapper girl and the factory, the luxury ocean liner and the skyscraper, the fantasy world of Hollywood and the real world of the Harlem Renaissance. Art Deco affected all forms of design, from the fine and decorative arts to fashion, film, photography, transport and product design. It was modern and it was everywhere.

It drew on tradition and yet simultaneously celebrated the mechanised, modern world. Often deeply nationalistic, it quickly spread around the world, dominating the skylines of cities from New York to Shanghai. It embraced both handcraft and machine production, exclusive works of high art and new products in affordable materials.

Art Deco reflected the plurality of the contemporary world. Unlike its functionalist sibling, Modernism, it responded to the human need for pleasure and escape.
In celebrating the ephemeral, Art Deco succeeded in creating a mass style of permanence. Infinitely adaptable, it gave free reign to the imagination and celebrated the fantasies, fears and desires of people all over the world.

Art Deco, like its forerunner Art Nouveau, was an eclectic style and drew on many sources. Designers sought to infuse jaded traditions with new life and to create a modern style based on a revitalised decorative language. To do so, they borrowed from historic European styles, as well as from the pictorial inventions of contemporary Avant Garde art, the rich colours and exotic themes of the Ballets Russes, and the urban imagery of the machine age. They also drew on more distant and ancient cultures. The arts of Africa and East Asia provided rich sources of forms and materials. Archaeological discoveries fuelled a romantic fascination with early Egypt and Meso-America.

As far as architecture design encompassed decorative style of bold geometric shapes and bright colours, it encompassed furniture, textiles, ceramics, sculpture and architecture.

The term was coined after the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriel Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts) held in Paris in 1925. The style spread across Europe to the United States and Britain, where it became a favourite for building types associated with the modern age: garages, airports, cinemas, swimming pools, office buildings, department stores, power stations and factories.

There were overlaps with Modernism, with the use of clean lines and minimal decoration, but the style also lent itself well to buildings associated with entertainment, providing glamorous interiors for hotels, restaurants and luxury apartments.

Lighting was also a key feature with much made of neon strip lighting to emphasise the streamlined nature of the designs.

What to look for in an Art deco building:

1. Streamlining
2. Bold shapes
3. Colour
4. Geometric designs
5. Decoration

Information is contained in an Article by Suzanne Waters
British Architectural Library, RIBA

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