Odds and quads

In 1848, the Royal Polytechnic Institution on London's Regent Street installed a 1,000-seat theatre, purpose-built for "optical exhibitions" such as magic lantern shows. It was here that Charles Dickens' ghost story, The Haunted Man, was first performed in 1863 and also where the Lumiere brothers, in 1896, presented the first moving film to a paying British audience.

July 5, 2012

During the 20th century, the theatre was used for a variety of film and stage performances. In the post-war period up to the late 1970s, it was a commercial cinema specialising in foreign-language and avant-garde productions (including one of the UK's first X-certificate films, La Vie Commence Demain, in 1951).

Now part of the University of Westminster, it is used for lectures and other functions. Its Compton organ, installed in 1936, is one of the few remaining in situ.

The images shown here are all taken from the university archives and depict: a magic lantern show and "special effects" room, with various means for making noises to accompany the projection (taken from an 1860 book); the theatre being used for a tailor's cutting class in 1899; the facade of 309 Regent Street in the 1930s; and a 1949 advertisement for the Cameo News Theatre.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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