Majestic then, majestic now

The Stag Community Arts Centre now operates as a charity, and includes a theatre, two digital cinema screens, and an alternative performance and conferencing facility. The Stag welcomes more than 25,000 people every month. More than 40,000 log on to the website each month, and extensive youth outreach work undertaken by the Stag reached more than 12,500 young people last year alone.

The Stag was originally built as the Majestic Cinema, a first generation Odeon cinema, in 1937. More than 70 years later, the shell of the building looks almost identical. But the 1930s shell hides a dark and twisting story, a tumultuous, ongoing drama which has refused to stick to the script.

Despite the long-term economic downturn which followed the Second World War, the cinema enjoyed a golden era through the 1940s and 1950s. The stage area of today's Stag was, at that point, one of the largest screens in the area. The cinema seated about 900 in total, with a large stalls area and a dress circle.

In the early 1970s, the cinema was converted into a triple-screen complex, and plans were even hatched to include a discotheque.

But the 1980s brought gloomy times for cinema. The advent of video and the flagging film industry meant that the cinema was increasingly forlorn, unloved and rather tatty. Planning permission for the disco was refused.

Sevenoaks had for years suffered through the lack of its own theatre. Local thespian Margaret Durdant-Hollamby, created the Sevenoaks Theatre Action Group (STAG) which had campaigned for a theatre in Sevenoaks for almost 17 years.

In August 1982, the STAG campaign group received a call from the Rank Organisation, which owned the cinema (called the Ace Film Club at that time), offering the building for use as a theatre.

In just 18 months the former cinema was transformed into a theatre. The two lower-level cinemas were retained, and the large auditorium converted to house the new stage. The stage was constructed without charge by contractor Deacons, which was building a nearby carpark at the time for Waitrose.

The grand opening took place on the night of December 18, 1983.

Unfortunately the complex did not survive financially and in 1992 the District Council acquired the building writing off the debts. It carried out a £3.2m refurbishment and extension creating the Stag Plaza, a self-contained venue used for drama, music, conferences and more.

The Stag's grand re-opening, which included the unveiling of the Stag Plaza, took place in December 1993.

After subsequent poor management and commercial failure the complex closed again in 2008. Sevenoaks Town Council took the bold step for a town of only 20,000 people to re-invent the venue as a Community Arts Centre.

It took over the venue on January 2 2009 with a 25 year lease following a formal bid process with more than 20 formal bids. The first show was the Sevenoaks Entertainers pantomime in January maintainng a 20 year tradition of never missing a year at the Stag Theatre. The cinemas re-opened on Februay 13 2009.

Since then, the Stag Community Arts Centre has enjoyed success upon success. The Stag's inaugural 3D screening took place on July 19 2010 and it began showing National Theatre productions via its digital cinemas in 2013. The Stag became a charity on August 11 2010, operating on its current not-for-profit basis re-investing income directly into facilities in the Arts Centre. Events are run mainly by volunteers.

The venue hosts an array of events and perfomances which appeal to audiences of all ages. Its management, its staff, its volunteers, the town and district councils and the Sevenoaks community are all determined that the Stag remains at the heart of Sevenoaks: Majestic in times past, and majestic today.

Cinema film club 1944 queueVE Day 1945 The Stag CinemaVestibule advertisements 1945 Stag cinemaThe Stag foyer Cinema and Theatre wide angleThe Stag Community Arts Centre, Cinema and Theatre sunny

 

 

 


 

 

 

 



corner
Lodge Cafe


Terms and conditionsPrivacy policy