As part of Open House Weekend, Olympia London is to unlock its doors to a little-known event space, shedding light on an intriguing nugget of cinematic history

On Saturday 20 September, Olympia Exhibition Centre’s Pillar Hall will be open to the public. Visitors to the hall’s first floor will be able to explore one of the earliest systems of projecting moving images onto a screen. Normally closed to the public, the decommissioned cinema space – which dates back to Victorian times – will be open as part of Open House.

Visitors will see evidence of the original cinema, created in 1895 just as moving image fever was taking off – the Lumiere brothers would record first footage with their cinématographe in the same year. Olympia’s early cinema can be seen via the projectionist room and tiny window where the film loader would have worked. There is also evidence of the original screen, on which audiences are thought to have watched films including A Shoeblack at Work in a London Street and A Rough Sea at Dover. This exciting chapter of history can be enjoyed in beautiful settings – the ballroom sized room’s stunning features include ornate ceiling, sumptuous oak panelling and, on the Pillar Hall’s ground floor, a columned hall evoking a rich, eclectic classical style. The exterior façade has a palazzo front with red brick and stone dressings.

Tom Lambregts, Head of Marketing at Olympia London, commented: “The Pillar Hall’s first floor is one of Olympia London’s lesser known spaces, which happens to have a fascinating history as an early cinema. We are thrilled to be sharing the story of this and showing the space to the public. Open House is a fantastic project that enables Londoners to experience new places and to appreciate the city’s stunning architecture, so we could not be more delighted to be a part of it.”

Viewings from 10am-2pm, entry free.