Situated in the heart of the Heritage City of Bath, the Forum was opened in 1934, the last ‘Super Cinema’ of its kind to be built. The architect was A.S. Gray a 28 year old classically trained architect in the flamboyant Art Deco style. The façade of the Forum with its magnificent pillars and canopied entrance give the visitor a clue to the architectural treasures that lie within. Built by the Avon Cinemas Company, based in Cardiff, it was probably the most luxurious cinema in Bath, It was finished in 1934 and the 2000 seat building was opened on the 19th May by the Marquis of Bath.
It opened at the time of the Great Depression and represented a form of escapism for people living with great poverty. It was the leisure centre of the day. It flourished as a cinema for three decades, finally closing its doors in 1969 after a time of declining cinema audiences in the UK, due to the rise in television. The building then housed a bingo hall and a dancing school.
During the 1980s there was interest in developing the building either as a shopping complex or refurbishing it as a conference and concert venue. During this time the Forum was listed by English Heritage as a Grade II building and so could not be altered substantially from its original state. The listing, later upgraded to Grade II*, was undoubtedly a key move in ensuring the preservation of the building and its unique Art Deco features at a time when many similar buildings were being bulldozed. It is now one of only a handful of similar buildings remaining in the UK.
In 1988 the building was purchased by the current owners, Bath Christian Trust as the home of Bath City Church who now meet here every Sunday and also use the building during the week for its many and varied activities.
Using plans drawn up by architects Stubbs Rich, the Trust embarked on a meticulous and extensive refurbishment programme to breathe new life into the building, starting with improvements to the heating, lighting and acoustics and redecoration of the auditorium. Later the Upper and Lower Seminar rooms were altered and decorated and even the toilets were improved in sympathy with the Art Deco style.
In 2001 the stage was renovated and extended, and theatrical lighting rigs and a data projector and electric screen were installed. Acoustically the auditorium is excellent for orchestral and choral concerts, but also provides a stunning venue for conferences and corporate events.
In 2004 a nine month project was embarked on which saw the refurbishment of the ballroom to include a full catering kitchen, the provision of offices for the 26 strong staff, a new reception area, toilet areas, restoration of the lift and refurbishment of the five shops to the side of the building.
Refurbishment of the rest of the building will continue in the coming months.
The Trust hires the Forum as often as possible for suitable events. These include conferences, concerts, meetings, graduation ceremonies and users include local choirs, orchestras, schools, colleges and universities as well as businesses.