Historic cinema building destroyed in arson attack

A fire at a Grade II listed cinema building in the West Midlands is “believed to have been started deliberately” the fire service has said.

During the afternoon of 5 May 2024, crews from West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) were called to a four-storey derelict building in Smethwick following several reports of smoke. More than 50 firefighters and 11 fire appliances attended the incident, along with two main jets and a hydraulic aerial platform.

Crews were additionally supported by West Midlands Police and the West Midlands Ambulance Service, with locals advised to keep doors and windows shut due to the high levels of smoke in the area. The nearby Windmill Shopping Park, which is located at the rear of the former cinema, was also closed earlier than normal. 

WMFS later confirmed that the fire had broken through the roof of the premises, and there were further concerns about the “poor structural integrity” of the building, with a structural engineer being called in to assess the property. Technical rescue crews were also brought in to remove the steel cladding to aid firefighting operations, and the fire was eventually brought under control by the evening. WMFS said: 

Thanks to effective efforts from firefighters at the scene, buildings and retail units near the affected premises are no longer at risk from fire.

It’s expected the incident will continue overnight, with safety cordons around the building and surrounding area for the protection of the public. Please continue to avoid the area, where possible.

Further hotspots were identified and extinguished two days after the initial fire broke out, with WMFS adding that it believed the fire, which gutted the derelict cinema, had been “started deliberately”.

As reported to Halesowen News, a spokesperson for West Midlands Police said: "A fire at a premises in Windmill Lane, Smethwick, on Sunday afternoon is now being treated as arson.

"Anyone with information can contact us via live chat on our website, or by calling 101, and quote 20/460883/24."

According to BBC News, the former cinema was a Grade II listed building built between 1929 and 1930. A spokesperson for Historic England said: "The distinctive art deco building reflected the glamour of the cinema bringing the excitement of talking pictures to the area in the 1930s.

"It was a valued and characterful addition to Smethwick town centre and will be a big loss to the community.”


(Photograph by West Midlands Police)