The Palladium Cinema

Film in Wartime

Although the Palladium Cinema (initially opened in April 1914) is now a different form of cultural centre (a Nando’s), in the early 20th century it was very important to the local community.

During the First World War, the cinema was one of the major ways that those still at home heard news about the front line and the war effort nationwide. For example, a viewer visiting the cinema in the first week of 1917, would have seen such newsreels as Munition Worker’s Efforts, Food for the Guns, and Returning Home. Newsreels were designed to keep workers informed about the war effort and to create a sense of closeness to the front line. The newly created War Office Cinematographic Committee, used films such as the 1916 The Battle of the Somme as a propaganda tool, aiming to portray the war in a more positive light. Their popularity speaks for themselves - estimates suggest that around 1 million Londoners saw The Battle of the Somme when it was first shown in 34 different cinemas in the Autumn of 1916.

Cinemas weren’t just sites of governmental propaganda and war news - they also provided other forms of entertainment and a healthy dose of escapism. Film stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, and Buster Keaton took their audiences away from dreary everyday life and transported them to comedies, romances, and action. These made the cinema one of the primary sources of entertainment for the working classes. The cinema was escapism for everyone — not just from the war, but from the pressures of everyday life for the middle and working classes alike.

The Palladium Theatre closed its doors on the 3rd of April 1938. The building sat empty for around 10 years but was damaged by German bombs during the Second World War and was eventually demolished in 1947. It has now been turned over to both commercial enterprise and the local community as a part of Mile End Park.



370 Mile End Road