L E A S K   A R C H I T E C T U R E

Happy Birthday Dreamland!

Helen Leask

The seminal Grade II* Listed Dreamland Cinema in Margate, designed by Iles, Leathart & Granger, is 80 years old this year.  To mark this anniversary, its current custodians - Thanet District Council (TDC) - organised a projection of the Greta Garbo film ‘The Painted Veil’ (the first feature-length film to be screened at the cinema in 1935) onto the side wall of the cinema building this evening.  Despite the general lack of PR for the event, short notice and low temperature there was a good turn out of Margatians, excited at this signalling prospect of the resurrection of a much loved Margate icon. 

TDC compulsory purchased the building in September 2013 and exciting plans are afoot to return this beautiful example of Art Deco architecture to its innovatory 1930s elegance.  It has been my favourite building in Margate since first visiting the town and I have long hoped for its future to involve returning it to its past and original ‘Program'.  

The Dreamland cinema, taking the name of the amusement park behind (which was itself named after the Coney Island attraction), was inspired by German cinema design (such as Titania-Palast in Berlin) and demonstrates Expressionist and Art Deco styles. The tower, with projecting fin detail which bears the building name, is particularly refined and highly effective as a prominent device on the primary approach route in and out of the town.  This design apparently proved influential on the design of subsequent Odeon cinemas and became an attraction in its own right when built, much as the Turner Contemporary is today.  It is assertively and unapologetically modern, in the context of its Georgian neighbours, with streamlining details showing off its technological influences and bold signage elegantly integrated into its architecture.  It represents glamour and social progress, while also advertising the amusement park that is approached under its 2,200-seat auditorium.  Its prominence on the Margate seafront remains today, despite the unsympathetic alterations of its more recent past.  I very much look forward to seeing 'The Painted Veil' at Dreamland again, hopefully inside the warmth and opulence of a restored auditorium next time!