Our History

The Dancehouse, a venue where history was made

Joining us at The Dancehouse is a little like stepping into a time machine. The beautifully detailed Art Deco surroundings are a real treasure - totally original and restored back to their former glory for today's generations to enjoy.

1920s - 30s

The story began in the late 1920s

The first idea was to create a row of shops on Manchester's bustling Oxford Road, above which would be two large meeting halls. But, during construction, a much more exciting vision emerged for those spaces - and on the 20th September 1930 the world's first twin cinema opened its doors.

Oxford Road in the 1920s, the Regal Twin Cinemas can be seen on the left.

1930s - 40s

A world first: the birth of the Regal Twin Cinemas

Often, they would run the same movie in both cinemas, one about half an hour later than the other. It was a brilliant solution to the huge public demand for movie entertainment at that time. In 1930, people poured in from the buses lining the street outside to enjoy that year's blockbusters including All Quiet On The Western Front and the Marx Brothers' Animal Crackers.

A publicity shot of the Marx Brothers for Animal Crackers, released in 1930.

Fond memories of the early days

Albert Findlow began work at the Regal Twin Cinemas in 1935, aged 14. For a lively and heart-warming account of those times visit:  www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/nostalgia/a-regal-beginning-1071730

1940s - 50s

The growth years

The Regal Twin remained one of Manchester's iconic centres of entertainment through the 'thirties and on through the dark days of the Second World War. As economic growth began to return in the 1950s cinema retained its huge popularity, with television yet to make a general impact.

Firefighters tackling a blaze in the city centre during the Manchester Blitz, circa 1940.

1960 - 86

A different name - and slow decline

In 1960 the twin cinemas were bought by Star Cinemas Group and two years after that they were re-christened Studios 1 & 2. Within a decade the space was redeveloped to include a total of five screens, inspired by the multiplex cinema concept from across the Atlantic.

But the rise of television was already changing Britain's entertainment habits hugely. In 1985, the five-screen venue was sold to new owners the Cannon Group, but unfortunately they failed to re-ignite Manchester's cinema bug sufficiently.

On 25th September 1986 - almost fifty-six years to the day since it opened - the cinema closed. It would then lie abandoned for a further four years.

Studios 1 & 2, later re-christened Studio 1 to 5 in the early 1970's.


An inspiring new beginning

The new chapter began in 1990 when Northern Ballet School saw the potential of the empty old cinema space as a wonderfully distinctive centre for performing arts in Manchester - and so they obtained the lease. This proved to be a visionary move as, two years later, the city was awarded European City of Drama status and identified the Oxford Road venue as ideal for conversion.

HRH Princess Margaret meeting Northern Ballet School students backstage at the theatre's inaugural performance in 1992.


Back to former glory

In 1994, Northern Ballet School in collaboration with The Dancehouse Theatre Company began the painstaking restoration of the building, retaining all its original 1930 features to ensure a new city venue of unique period individuality.

In the new space the ballet school would have superb dance studio facilities along with a top quality auditorium for its performances, cafĂ© and bar facilities. At the same time, The Dancehouse team would work independently, offering the venue for hire to showcase local, national and international acts in a characterful setting.

The Dancehouse auditorium showing the restored 1930's Art Deco features.

1994 - 2013

A distinctively different venue

Through the 1990s and on through the millennium, The Dancehouse continued to grow its reputation as a distinctive venue for dance, comedy and theatre, attracting performers who have gone on to be national success stories - people like Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Daniel Kitson, Doug Stanhope, Dylan Moran, Tim Minchin, Tim Key, Bo Burnham and Count Arthur Strong.

Jon Ronson and the Oh Blimey Big Band performing Frank Story, his show about Frank Sidebottom in 2014.

2013 - present

Back to the movies - The Dancehouse re-introduces its roots

Well established as a comedy, theatre and music venue, The Dancehouse broadened its appeal even further in 2013 by installing a brand new cinema screen in its auditorium together with a projector that can accommodate most current projection formats.

And so, after a gap of eighty-three years, movie lovers were once again able to enjoy the allure of the silver screen in the authentic surroundings so loved by the people of Manchester back in 1930.

The legendary band Goblin performing a live score to Dario Argento's horror masterpiece Suspiria in 2014.