One of Belfast’s last surviving art deco style cinemas has been saved by an act of “divine intervention”, it’s been claimed.
The former Majestic cinema on the Lisburn Road, one of the last remaining venues of its kind in the city, has sat empty for several years.
But now it can be revealed the 80-year-old building is being refurbished and developed on behalf of the nearby Windsor Baptist Church, which will use the building as a meeting hall.
No one from the church was available for comment.
Belfast demolition firm Eastwood is currently gutting much of the building inside to make way for its new tenants.
The building on the Lisburn Road once played host to the Majestic cinema, before being turned into a furniture store in the 1970s.
It was once one of the city’s listed buildings, but was then de-listed in 1998. The film maker and broadcaster Brian Henry Martin – who lives a short distance from the building – said: “It’s divine intervention, that’s what it is to me.
“The Regal cinema used to be there (on the Lisburn Road) and that was demolished.
“Recently when I was walking down and saw the demolition banner – it just strikes fear in your heart.
“You’re seeing one of our iconic, art deco, 1930s buildings.”
He said he was “delighted” that the once “classy cinema” was being retained, and would soon draw its own crowd.
“I did a talk on Monday about the old cinemas of Belfast, such as the Ritz, the Hippodrome etc. All of those are gone and have been demolished.
“For example, the Strand (in east Belfast) is now flourishing as a not-for-profit community cinema.
“The Majestic was a very classy cinema. It was designed by John McBride Neill who was an eminent cinema architect.
“It was one of the great suburban cinemas. It was a picture palace, and was all about style and comfort.
“It’s divine intervention. People will now use it and congregate in it.
“Cinemas were once like churches, based upon the idea of worshipping the screen.”
The Majestic’s architect, John McBride Neill, was the foremost architect of cinema’s golden age in Northern Ireland.
His first cinema in the new art deco style was the Apollo, on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, which opened in 1933.
He designed a further six cinemas in 1935, including the Strand, the Majestic, the Troxy and the Curzon in Belfast, and The Regal in Larne.