One of the UK’s oldest working cinemas, the Electric Birmingham, has shut, with the last film screening listed as yesterday (February 29).

The closure has been confirmed on the cinema’s official website. The cinema dates back to 1909, and was built in a converted taxi rank in Station Street.

Kevin Markwick bought the cinema in 2021, with his daughter Katie Markwick running it. He did not respond to Screen’s request for comment at time of publication. Markwick also owns the The Picture House Uckfield in Sussex. 

The Electric was previously owned by Tom Lawes, who closed the cinema during the first March 2020 Covid lockdown. Markwick then renovated and reopened it in 2022. 

The Flatpack Festival, which has operated out of the cinema for 18 years, posted on its website: “The Markwick family who run the cinema have made the difficult decision to close down this week, despite healthy attendances. At the end of March the building’s current 88-year lease will come to an end. We understand that a property developer intends to apply for planning permission to demolish most of Station Street - except for the Grade II listed Old Rep Theatre - to make way for a fifty-storey apartment block.”

The closure comes at a difficult time for Birmingham’s cultural landscape, with the council announcing this week it is cutting 100% of its arts funding. Last year, the UK’s largest local authority declared it was effectively bankrupt.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street responded on X in a joint statement with West Midlands night time economy advisor Alex Claridge about their ambitions to intervene and “put money where our mouth is”:

“Thank you to everyone who has messaged us about the Electric Cinema. Clearly any potential loss of such an iconic heritage building is deeply concerning, and so we have asked the WMCA to urgently investigate the facts and any possible interventions.

“We know this feeds into wider concerns about the future of Station Street, which is why we have already written to Government to ask for [pub] The Crown to become a listed building. Clearly if we are successful in that application then that has implications for any proposed development. But Station Street is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to people’s grave concerns about the future of our arts and cultural scene.

“Culture is essential to the lifeblood of the West Midlands. That is why the news that Birmingham City Council will be cutting 100% of their grants to cultural organisations is so concerning. But rest assured we have no intention of standing by and seeing the region’s cultural sector decline. We hope to share more concrete news on our actions soon, and we fully intend to put money where our mouths are.”

An online petition has been set up calling for Station Street to be designated as a historic, cultural and civic asset and has been signed by over 5,000 people.