On Easter Monday 1930. The Fifth Cinema in the Joseph Mears Theatre Group was opened. An Australian musical trio, an organist and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra supported the opening films, Gold Diggers of Broadway and The Cockney Spirit In War.
Joseph T. Mears owned three of Richmond cinemas; the New Royalty, the Talbot and the Richmond Kinema. He also had cinemas in Sheen, Twickenham and Hammersmith. A prominent local businessman, he also served as Mayor of Richmond and was an alderman for many years. Joseph T. Mears commissioned the Kinema's friezes, showing a strong South American influence they depict his other local business interests; building and water transport.
Called simply the Richmond Kinema, it was, with 1533 seats the biggest Cinema yet built in the area. Its owners confidently informed the public that their intention was to "make this Kinema equal to any in the West End," It was certainly impressive to look at. Its designers' intention was to create in the interior a setting that would transport its patrons into another world for two or three hours of fantasy. The front of the auditorium was modelled on a fanciful recreation of a seventeenth century Spanish Grandee's courtyard, features included ornate grillwork, Spanish tiles, Moorish windows, even stone and plaster oranges and doves and an intricate system of coloured lights was projected onto the ceiling to create an artificial sunrise and sunset in the intervals between films! Installed at a huge cost of £10,000. These allowed 672 different sequences of coloured light to be projected on the ceiling and walls.
The Richmond Kinema, now a Grade Two listed building, is the most architecturally interesting of Richmond's Cinemas. It is believed to have been the first "atmospheric" cinema in Britain. This kind of cinema design, pioneered in America, was intended, through exotic stage-set decoration and lighting effects, to convey to the audience a transition from the reality of the outside world to the make-believe world on the screen.
It was enormously popular with the public and people travelled miles, as one former projectionist remembered, just to imagine themselves in some warmer more distant clime.