The biggest bingo spot in London was, until 2007, the Kilburn Mecca Bingo at 197/199 Kilburn High Road, London. It was located in what was considered the biggest movie theatre in the country back in 1937, the former Gaumont State Cinema. Inside the establishment was decorated in Italian Renaissance style with a gold and green dome topping the auditorium, yet from the outside its design draws on American 20th century influences. What famous building does the tower remind you of? (answer below)
An evening’s entertainment usually comprised some reasonably priced pints of bitter or glasses of house wine, plus a lot of meet, greet and chat, before the games began with a hushed air of expectation and concentration. Later Things began to reach fever pitch when the ‘Link Game’ started. This is where a number of Bingo Halls pooled their players and funds for even bigger prizes. If you were going to win just one game in an evening it’s the National Link-Up Bingo game you’d have wanted to win- the first prize really was pretty hefty!
With a capacity of over four thousand, the Gaumont State Theatre was the largest cinema ever built in England and the third largest in all of the United Kingdom. It was opened with a live radio broadcast that ran for 5 days, and after this it started showing feature films.
It was one of the best equipped theatres in the country with 20 dressing rooms, and its own 400 seat restaurant. The building's exterior is in part homage to the Empire State Building which was at the time the biggest building in the world.
With the onset of World War Two came the first of changes to affect the theatre, including brief closure, and part-time opening during the early war years. The cinema remained popular for several years, and was frequented by royalty who came to see ballets being performed. In 1957 the space underneath the cinema was converted into a dance studio, and was one of many changes that would be made to the interior structure over the following years.
The Top Rank Company, who later became Mecca Bingo operated in part of the building until its closure in August 2007. The building has now been bought by a church, which is a pattern that is emerging throughout the UK as many Bingo land-based operations fall by the wayside, mostly due to the popularity of online Bingo.