From cinema to mosque

The story of one building’s remarkable century-long transformation 

117 Stoke Newington Road stands proudly as the site of Aziziye Mosque, one of the largest Turkish-speaking mosques in London. A century ago it was the heart of the community for an entirely diferent purpose: entertainment.

The Apollo Picture House – as it was then known – opened in 1913 next door to Stoke Newington Baptist Church. It was reported to be a controversial decision with many protests at the showing of lms so close to a place of worship; the cinema appeased some of these local opponents by showing only Christian religious lms on Sundays.

The cinema itself changed hands in 1933, being taken over by London & Southern Super Cinemas. This was the company that also operated the Kingsland Empire Cinema in nearby

Dalston – which still operates today as the Rio Cinema – and it gave the Stoke Newington building a full refurbishment.

On 7 August 1933 the picture house reopened as the Ambassador Cinema. It changed hands a few more times before the Second World War: it was taken over by Watford Amusements in 1936 and by the Odeon Theatres chain the following year – although it never took on the Odeon name.

The cinema kept going until the mid- 1960s, when it was converted into the Star Bingo Club for a number of years.
By 1974, it had become the Astra Cinema, although in this incarnation it began to play uncensored martial arts movies and softcore sex lms. It closed for good in July 1983.
The building’s renaissance came in the subsequent decade, when it was purchased by the UK Turkish Islamic Association to create a mosque that provided Turkish-language services to the local community. All traces of the cinema were removed as the building was gutted and redecorated in a traditional Ottoman style, featuring a halal butcher, weekend school, wedding hall and restaurant.

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