My Favourite History Place: Tivoli Theatre


By Charlie Lewis-North, published 14th April 2016

Tivoli Theatre Wimbourne

The Tivoli Theatre opened on 24 August 1936 with Jean Adrienne in Father O’Flynn and Shirley Temple in Kid in Hollywood, with film star Jean Adrienne appearing in person. It was designed by Bournemouth-based architect E. de Wilde Holding. The front of the building was an existing Georgian-style building named Borough House. Inside the auditorium there was an attractive sequence of multi-coloured lights, concealed in troughs. The Tivoli also boasts a wide variety of Art Deco features, including original chrome and Bakelite door handles.

The theatre had originally been designed to have dressing rooms but that was changed at the last minute and it then operated mainly as the local cinema. Initially an independent cinema, it passed to South Coast Theatres Ltd., then to the Myles Byrne Cinema chain who operated it until its closure in April 1980 with the double feature programme Convoy and Sweeny 2. The building was compulsorily purchased by Dorset County Council as part of the preparations for a traffic improvement scheme that was later abandoned. It then sat empty and unused for ten years until in 1990 the Friends of the Tivoli charity was formed. It then took a further three years of hard work to get the building ready to open to the public again.

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