After seemingly years of inactivity, Academy Music Group are in discussion with Council planning officers to kick start the process of bringing Brighton Hippodrome back to being a music venue. AMG took over the lease to the run down Grade II Listed theatre in Feb 2007 after the building was bought by Cheval Properties following forty years of it being a Mecca Bingo Hall, and it has remained empty ever since.
The venue started life as an ice rink back in 1897, but that didn’t last too long and it was converted into a theatre just after the turn of the century, playing host to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Max Miller, Laurence Olivier, Laurel & Hardy, Gracie Fields and Harry Houdini (Thanks Wikipedia!). At it’s peak it packed in 4,500 people despite it’s official capacity of 3,000. After the second world war the theatre declined in popularity and started hosted more music concerts in an effort to widen it’s appeal. In 1964 both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones played there but the theatre closed it’s doors the following year, re-opening as a bingo hall in 1967. It was given Grade II Listed status in 1985
Academy Music Group run 24 venues across the country, and are probably best known for Brixton Academy. I’m hoping that they keep the Hippodrome name – out of the venues they run twenty are called Academy although a few have retained their original names. There won’t be any escape from heavy branding though. At the moment, all of them are plastered with O2 logos everywhere, after a few years of them all being badged as Carling venues.
The intention is to convert it to a 2,000 capacity venue – less than when it was a theatre, but that’ll probably mean more room for bars, a bigger stage area, and more fire escapes, which probably weren’t so much of a priority a hundred years ago. This is roughly the same capacity as the Dome, but the Hippodrome would be pitching for a much younger audience – a quick scan over the gigs on at the Dome in the next few months shows the likes of Joan Baez, The Chieftains, Suzanne Vega, Joan Armatrading and Don McLean coming up. The Concorde 2 only has a capacity of 600, and the Green Door Store only 250, so the Hippodrome wouldn’t really be in competition with any existing venues.
There’s a bit more info in the full story in the Argus.