Today we’re looking way back into London’s celluloid past to shine a light on another unsung hero of exploitation exhibition: Stoke Newington’s Astra cinema. Never heard of it? Neither had I until I was reading the cinema listings in a handful of vintage 1970s issues of Time Out.
The cinema landscape of London was a very different beast back in the 1970s, there were only 3 TV channels, no video players and the internet as we know it decades away, so consequently the city was overflowing with the cinemas! Which meant that there was plenty of room for a screen that specialised in martial arts double bills, yes that’s what the Stoke Newington Astra did, or at least did most of the time.
What I didn’t realise, until I started digging online for more info, was that the Astra was actually this place:
The Astra in its Kung Fu double bill days (1970s)
Which I’ve walked past so many times, but had no idea it used to be a cinema, let alone that is used to show classic kung fu films back in the 1970s. Today it’s the Aziziye Mosque, with the front section functions as a community store.
I’d always assumed the design was part of the Mosque, but the cinema was actually built in that style when it opened all the way back in 1913. Over the decades it went through different hands and many refurbishments, but always keeping its distinctive exterior. Where it becomes really interesting for us is when became the Astra in 1974 and started playing the kung fu and cult film double bills. Here’s a look at the three killer double-bill Time Out listings that we’ve been able to find for the Astra:
It blows my mind to think that you could have caught these classic films on a big screen in Stoke Newington back in the 70s! Sadly the Astra closed in 1983, but the building is still there and it’s great that the very unique exterior has survived all those decades. We hope this short feature has helped to shine a light onto the Astra and helps to preserve just a little bit more of London’s cult cinematic history.