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The Electric – UK’s Oldest Working Cinema

Huddled on a small and unassuming street in the center of Birmingham is the oldest working cinema in the United Kingdom.

Not knowing about The Electric, you just might pass it by. Not knowing about The Electric would also be a grave mistake for any film enthusiast.

The Electric is not only the last remaining independent cinema in Birmingham, but it also promises a one of a kind experience. From the moment you walk in, till the time you leave, The Electric takes you back to a time when multiplexes didn’t exist, and the old-world charm hangs ever so subtly in the air.

Over the decades the theater has had quite a few transformations and name changes, but its new avatar is by far the best in my 20 odd years of knowing of its existence.

515ac-elecThe Electric is small. Two cinema screens with a tiny small lobby area housing a bar and the ticket counter. Upon arrival, it seems a tad claustrophobic, probably because one has become so accustomed to the huge lobbies and multiple ticket counters at multiplexes. Slowly, but surely, as you discover the small nooks and corners, this feeling of claustrophobia converts into one of coziness.

All the spaces within the theater are utilized to the max with tables and chairs giving the interiors an almost homey feeling – an entrance to your own private home theater if you may.

The staff is genuine, and one can actually have a conversation on films with them. That distance or hurriedness that is often felt at multi-screen theaters is replaced by service-with-a-smile. The fact that The Electric sells my favourite film magazine – Little White Lies – makes it all the more a lovely place.

The experience that is The Electric starts from the moment you buy the ticket, or should I say the ticket stub, which is genuinely a classic touch. The next bit of surprise for me was when the well-stocked bar – yes, they serve alcohol – served me cola in an old-fashioned glass-bottle along with a glass full of ice and a slice of lime. There was no plastic in sight and that my friends is underrated sophistication.

The seats though aren’t your super comfy sliding types with cup holders, and it is a bit like sitting in the economy class of any airline, wherein, if you are in for a long flight – movie – it does feel a little cramped. Having said that, the seats are comfortable enough even if a bit of space would have been appreciated.

If you are in the mood to spend a little extra, you can always opt for the “couches” which engulf you in the lap of comfortable luxury along with an SMS service that lets you order food/drink without moving an inch.

Now, the tickets are slightly expensive as it is, so although you pay about a pound more than usual, the idea is to support the local independent cinema, and the atmosphere is by far worth the extra cash.

The fact that I saw Senna – favorite documentary/film of all time – on my first visit to The Electric amplified this experience even more.

Another aspect of The Electric that impressed me was that it is a theater that is not afraid to experiment.

It started hosting the Shock and Gore festival in 2011, promoting a fun event that the locals can enjoy. Such events are an excellent way to bring the community together and simultaneously support the art of cinema in all its forms.

So, the next time you are in Birmingham, take a slight detour to visit The Electric and definitely watch a movie there for a fantastic experience.


  • Maniparna Sengupta Majumder
    Posted 16 May, 16 at 4:12 AM

    An informative as well as enjoyable read… 🙂

    • raghavmodi
      Posted 16 May, 16 at 4:17 PM

      Thanks Maniparna, it’s worth a visit if ever you are in the area.

  • SHWETA Dave
    Posted 17 May, 16 at 7:51 PM

    old charm…so much indepth information 🙂

    • raghavmodi
      Posted 17 May, 16 at 7:54 PM

      Thanks Shweta, and yes old world charm to the max.

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  • Lisa
    Posted 25 July, 17 at 6:34 PM

    I think if you’re really into cinema and retro cinema, you’ll love this place. It looks interesting, and I understand its appeal, but more for its history. I never knew it was the UK’s oldest cinema, so thanks for enlightening us!

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 26 July, 17 at 12:04 PM

      Cheers and yes, besides the movie aspect it works as a lovely little place to visit because of the architecture and history.

  • Abigail Sinsona
    Posted 25 July, 17 at 7:23 PM

    I always love visiting historical sites and old buildings. It is so interesting that this cinema is still working. That would be so cool to give that a try! PS – love that architectural facade too!

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 26 July, 17 at 12:03 PM

      Yeah, I like it to, very Art Deco. I remember when years back this was a shady cinema in-between showing “weird” films. So glad they re-did it and are made it into what it is now.

  • natalietanner
    Posted 25 July, 17 at 7:34 PM

    A real ticket! The kids would find that really interesting! They have no idea what that is like. LOL! Now, we just pay online and use the phone. So glad this is still around – we need to connect to the past.

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 26 July, 17 at 12:01 PM

      Exactly. The other day I took out a VHS and my daughter and her friends were like “This is so cool”.

  • Migrating Miss
    Posted 25 July, 17 at 8:14 PM

    This looks so cute!! I love retro stuff and I think this would be such a fun experience. I had no idea that this existed but I’ll have to add it to my list for when I’m down that way next visiting friends 🙂

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 26 July, 17 at 12:01 PM

      It’s next to the train station in one of the side streets. Easy to miss out on, but people know about it, so if you ask they should be able to point you towards it.

  • Suma
    Posted 25 July, 17 at 9:27 PM

    Wow, now that is an unoque and fun way to experience watching a movie. It seems like forever I last watched a movie at a theatre instead of a multiplex. I’m travelling to the UK this winter, if I happen to visit Birmingham, I’ll plan trip to the theatre.

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 26 July, 17 at 12:11 PM

      You should and Birmingham is quite the underrated city. I have been writing about it in detail in both the travel and food sections on my blog so have a look if you do decide to go.

  • Woody World Packer (@wwptravel)
    Posted 26 July, 17 at 6:19 AM

    Lovely article! We love a bit of history and retro stuff and this is definitely having both of them. The fact that it is still working makes us even more curious!

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 26 July, 17 at 12:13 PM

      Yes and they have really done it up well, so it’s modern but with a vintage charm.

  • David Meldrum
    Posted 26 July, 17 at 1:10 PM

    This place looks like an interesting visit! I love how it’s soo old yet still a functionable cinema! Great to see older buildings like that still up and working! Very interesting read, thanks for sharing!

  • Indrani
    Posted 26 July, 17 at 1:32 PM

    Never a movie enthusiast but this one is informative. It is attractions like this that makes a place visit worthy.
    I am glad the city has paid attention to ‘The Electri’ and done up the place very well and retained its old charm. Definitely worth a visit!

    • Ticker Eats The World
      Posted 26 July, 17 at 6:34 PM

      I believe it is privately owned but yes the city i’m sure chipped in.

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