LONDON cinemas

Regal (Odeon) Marble Arch

2 Edgware Road,

 London, WC2 2EN

 

Date opened: Thursday 29th November 1928

Date original building closed: Sunday 22nd March 1964

Architect: Clifford Aish, assisted by Frederick Ernest Bromige 

Interior design: Charles Muggeridge 

Seating Capacity: 2400

Exterior view of the Regal,Marble Arch.

THE Regal cinema Marble Arch first put in an appearance in 1928 and opened with the sound on disc film ‘The Singing Fool’. This ran for ten weeks, no doubt for many, this was the first time they would have experienced the new wonder of sound in the cinema. After ten weeks the film was transferred to the Piccadilly theatre. The cinema was built for AE Abrahams and his son David. Abrahams had a small chain of Regal cinemas in London, including Uxbridge and Edmonton. Its slogan became ‘The Best in the West’.

Balcony view of the Regal Cinema, Marble Arch.

The architect of this fine building was Clifford Aish and the cost was a staggering £500,000. The frontage of the Regal towers were higher than Marble Arch and were Portland stone in a free rendition of the Renaissance style. The facade was flood lit at night and was visible from Hyde Park corner and Knightsbridge. There were three ornamental bronze and glass doorways, which were flanked by black marble surrounds. The auditorium was horseshoe shape and it was said this approaches the ideal, both as regards acoustic and usual requirements.

Regal cinema, Marble Arch.Interior featuring glades of trees and garlands of creepers.

Seating was luxurious, being upholstered in “panne” velvet with leaf design in October Brown and gold. The first person to manage the theatre was a Mr R. Shirley Simpson. In 1931 he went as circuit manager for ABC. His replacement was a Mr R Brough Johnson. There were two lifts at the Regal to transport people, if they wished, to the circle area. Telephone boxes were another feature. The cinema also had an oriental feel. There were spacious lounges and the lower ground floor was Chinese with Chinese, Chippendale furniture. Panels were treated with specially hand painted Chinese figures on a cream ground, the lighting units being in oriental design. Oriental attendants were employed to serve in that area.

Click on the above frame to listen to the Christie organ

Music was provided by the magnificent Christie four manual organ. It was Europes largest organ. It was said in advertising: The Chosen Instrument for Britain’s Premier Cinemas. It had two hundred and seventy five stop keys and included a full concert grand piano. A Mr Quentin M Maclean drew up the specifications for the instrument. He was one of the top organists in the country and was engaged to play at the Regal. In 1930 Maclean left to play at the Trocadero, Elephant and Castle and Reginald Foort took over. In addition to the Christie the Regal was the first picture House in the world to install a Carillion to be used with the film presentation. The Carilion consisted of thirty two bells,fully chromatic, the largest unit weighing 6 hundred weight. Another unique feature was that it is played from the organ console, or as an instrument by itself. In the latter case a standard piano keyboard was employed.

Proscenium of the Regal, Marble Arch.

The chief projectionist was a Mr P Pilgrim. He was an inventive type and was responsible for early wide screen pictures at the Regal. When screening Gold Diggers of Broadway, a cleverly produced effect of magnifying the picture was achieved by a magnifying lens, costing around thirty shillings in 1930, plus the inventive faculty of the Mr Pilgrim. The lens was constructed by Taylor Hobson to Mr Pilgrim’s specifications. There were four projectors at the Regal, which were Simplex, with Ashcraft arcs.

Prince and Princess Arthur of Connaught

Guests at the opening included Prince and Princess Arthur of Connaught. After the opening film, the 2400 guests saw a film of the royal guests arriving. It was reported in the illustrated London News, December 8th 1928 by Michael Orme that the main idea of the decoration was to give the illusion of being out of doors. This was achieved by mural landscapes, stucco trails of Virginia creeper, and a roof in the form of a pergola (festooned with vines bearing bunches of grapes) open to a sky lit with artificial stars.

The Regal was one of many cinemas making their debut in 1928. Some say it was the year of the super cinema. Other London cinemas opening that year included the Empire Leicester Square and the Davis theatre Croydon. Provincial openings included the Woolton Liverpool and Palladium Blackpool. The Bioscope in July 1929 reported that the Regal’s usherettes keep fit by exercising on the Roof of the cinema with fitness instructor Pat O’Keefe.

Less than year after opening the cinema was acquired by the ABC circuit, on the 28th September 1929. ABC ran the theatre until January 1945. It was then taken over by the Odeon circuit. They refurbished it, but before opening the building received damage from a flying bomb. It was the 9th September 1945 before the curtains (tabs) opened for the first time under Odeon.

The Odeon , Marble Arch was the first cinema in the UK to screen 3D, employing two projectors, running together in sync. The first 3D attraction was Bwana Devil shown from the 20th March 1953. On 22nd March 1964, the old Regal, come Odeon closed its doors with the film ‘The Long Ships’. The magnificent Regal/Odeon was demolished to be replaced with an office block and a new Odeon, which opened on the 2nd February 1967 with A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. This closed housing five screens on the 8th May 2016 and like the Regal before it, was demolished.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

REGAL, Marble Arch video. Click the above frame to view

Compton Lodge Studios copyright
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New Odeon Marble Arch

2 Edgware Road,

 London, WC2 2EN

Date opened: 2nd February 1967

Date closed: 8th May 2016

Architect: T. P. Bennett and Sons

Interior design: Trevor and Mavis Stone

Seating Capacity: 1,360

ODEON, Marble Arch

The new Marble Arch Odeon was built on the site of the Regal, which later became the ABC and finally Odeon. This stood on the site from 1928 to 1964. The new building designed by T. P. Bennett and Sons opened on 2nd February 1967 with the film ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum’. Interior decoration was by Trevor and Mavis Stone. This replacement was equipped to run 70mm, using the Cinemecanica Victoria 8 projectors with a Cinemation unit. One of the 70mm presentations was Gone With the Wind, blown up from 35mm 4×3 ratio. It was screened at the Odeon in July 1969, and was a bad transfer, leaving some of the image missing. Closed circuit TV was installed, so the theatre could be monitored from the manager’s office. The Dimension 150 system had an outing there. Info on this can be found on the web.

Interior of the new ODEON Marble Arch

On the 16th October 1967 The Royal World Premiere of ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ took place in the presence of HRH Princes Margaret.

Princess Margaret at the new ODEON Marble Arch

Access to the cinema was by twin escalators. This took you to a spacious foyer with Amber and gold carpeting. The new Odeon was part of a complex that housed shops and an office tower. In 1996 it closed to go the same way as many others, and became a five screen cinema, two of them in the balcony area. In October 2016 the cinema went the same way as the building that had stood there previously and was demolished.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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Granada Tooting

50 Mitcham Road,

London, SW17 9NA

Date opened: Monday 7th September 1931

Date Closed: 10th November 1973 

Architect: Cecil Masey F.R.I.B.A.

Interior design: Theodore Komisarjevsky

First film shown:  “Monte Carlo”

Final film shown: “A Man Called Noon”

The first General Manager: Noel Hobart

Seating capacity: 3104

The GRANADA Tooting

Just over a year from the date that Sidney and Cecil Bernstein established the Granada Cinema chain in 1930 the magnificent Granada Theatre opened on Monday 7th September 1931.  More than 3000 patrons packed into the elaborate auditorium to watch the first film shown- “Monte Carlo” which starred Jack Buchanan and Jeanette MacDonald. Many thousands of disappointed customers were turned away as the House Full signs were put on the entrance doors. 

The painted murals by Alex Johnson

Costing an incredible £145,000 (£7 million calculated in today’s money!), the chosen architect was Cecil Masey. The the fantastic interiors were created by the famous Russian designer Theodore Komisarjevsky, with a series of painted murals taken from originals of Lucien Blanc and painted by Alex Johnson in to panels on the side walls of the circle. The collective talents of these three men helped to ensure that this theatre would be singled out to become the “flagship” of the Granada circuit and considered by many to be “the finest cinema in the UK”.

The splendor of the Hall of Mirrors

The entrance foyer featured grand marble staircases, Gothic windows and mirrors and chandeliers. On the first floor, guests entered the circle via the ‘Hall of Mirrors’, a long, wide corridor, full of arches and mirrors, that created a sense of splendor for patrons as they approached the auditorium. On the ground level there were more grand arches, deep ornate ceilings, doorways and balconies either side of the proscenium. Clark & Fenn (Joseph Bernard Clark and Harry Fenn) were responsible for the ornamental plaster-work. The Plenum chamber was capable of pumping 3,000,000 cubic feet of cooled or heated air into the theatre hourly. The impure air was then extracted via ducting from under the seats all over the auditorium.

It had a Wurlitzer theatre organ. Originally a 4 Manual/12 Ranks instrument which was opened by organist Alex Taylor.

The Granada Tooting. The grand entrance hall staircase.

A cafe/restaurant overlooked the main entrance, giving diners a first class view of the imposing entrance foyer.

A car park for 250 cars, and another service feature was a spacious pram park.

The fully equipped stage was impressive with a proscenium width of 58ft and 30ft deep, complete with a fly- tower. For four decades the stage provided live entertainment that saw many international artists appear there.

English Heritage upgraded the listing from Grade 2 to Grade 1 on 28th September 2000, the highest listing and the first Grade 1 awarded to a cinema building.

 

©chestercinemas.co.uk

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Metropole Cinema

160 Victoria Street,

London, SW1E 5LB

 

Date opened: Friday the 27th December 1929

Date Closed: Saturday 11th June 1977

Architect: George Coles  FRIBA (1884–1963) 

Seating Capacity: 2400

 

Metropole

The Metropole cinema Victoria, London, which was originally going to be called the Broadway, was opened on Friday the 27th December 1929. It was designed by George Coles, and was built for brothers Sydney, and Philip Hyams. It is said that it was part of the Hyams and Gale circuit, but Gale has no mention in the list of directors. The ERA dated the 1st January 1930 says: The directors of the Metropole are Mr Philip Hyams ( Chairman and joint Managing Director) Mr Sid Hyams ( Joint Managing Director) Mr L Benveniti, Mr H W S Howard and Mr B O Savage, ACA. Mr R S Sowden, whose long experience at the Rivoli and more recently at the Regal, Marble Arch, equips him well for the post as General Manager, and Mr Mick Hyams, House Manager. Mr Archie Parkhouse is to preside over the magnificent organ. Before teaming up with Gale the Hyams’ were responsible for several cinemas, which they sold to Gaumont.

Situated opposite Victoria Station, the Metropole was built on what was the bed of a river and the foundations had to be sunk to a depth of thirty five feet. The theatre was designed with a View to combining modern simplicity with the warmth and colour of the Spanish Renaissance period. The prevailing colour scheme throughout was amber, gold and blue. There was a marble floor in the foyer area with pillars of onyx and marble. The auditorium had walnut panelling and there was amber lighting that was concealed. There was a magnificent chandelier which hung from the central dome. Auditorium carpet was in blue, and the proscenium curtain was woven in gold. The proscenium itself measured thirty- seven feet. The theatre boasted six dressing rooms. Features in the foyer, included curved skylight Windows, which had a rich yellow stain with geometric decorations in orange and blue. They were in the high curved ceiling and were nine feet by eight feet.

METROPOLE Cinema

The first film to hit the screen was The Co-optimists. It was stated in the press that the film was the most wonderful for voice production we have heard. In fact by merely closing the eyes you could think the cast were there in the flesh.

At the opening a Mr Archie Parkhouse presented a musical novelty, on what was described as the magnificent Standaart organ, after which, one of the directors of the theatre apologised for the unfinished state of the building. He told the audience that the elements had been against them and how sorry he was that those present walked in as the carpet people walked out.

In July 1935 the organ was replaced by a Wurlitzer model. In 1961 it was removed. Musical entertainment was provided by Jack Hylton and his boys. They created a furore when the curtain rose and they started to play Singing in the Rain, followed by Aint Misbehaving, Stepping Out and others.

The ERA said: Although it has been stated that a full orchestra had been engaged for the New Metropole Cinema opposite Victoria Underground Station, there was not done at the opening on Friday, and I understand that the directors are pursuing a “waiting” policy. That is to say, if the patrons of this magnificent new house desire a real orchestra, the directors are prepared to engage one. In the meantime, music lovers are to have bands and turns on the stage to satisfy their desires as far as possible. Jack Hylton and his boys were the opening attraction, and are remaining on. Teddy Brown will be seen there in the near future.

On the 1st of June 1932, shortly after Baird’s television demonstration at Selfridges, plans were made to televise the Epsom Derby. It was transmitted by land line to the Metropole. The Odeon circuit took control in 1943 and played first run Odeon circuit product. The cinema’s claim to fame was in 1945 when the interior of the theatre and the organ, were featured in the classic movie Brief Encounter.

Road show presentations began in 1959 with the musical Oklahoma, opening on the 26th December. Because it was now equipped for 70mm screenings, a new wide screen was placed in front of the proscenium, and the seating capacity was reduced from the original 1,967 to 1,394. The new projectors were the the Philips DP 70s. The DP70 was the only projector to win an Oscar. If anyone knows what projection equipment was in before 70mm, please let us know.

The cinema’s longest run was Lawrence of Arabia (1962) screened in 70mm with fantastic six track magnetic sound. It had previously had an eight week run at the Odeon L/Square. This ran at the Metropole for a staggering ninety- eight weeks. Another long run was the epic El Cid. On the 5th April 1967 the cinema hosted a Royal Premiere, screening Steve McQueen in The Sand Pebbles. Eventually 70mm roadshow product started to dry up, no doubt due to expense, and the cinema went back to first run 35mm shows.

Sadly, film ceased On the 11th June 1977 with the film Burnt Offerings. It became the Metropole Laser Theatre, staging a show called Lovelight, commencing 21st June 1977 until 26th September1977. After this, the shutters came down, and it didn’t open for business until Virgin records took control opening it as a concert hall named The Venue. This operated from 1st November 1978 until August 1984. The demolition hammer moved in after this, destroying the beautiful auditorium. The nearby Cameo/ Classic’s auditorium was also victim to the wrecking ball. Fortunately, the foyer of the Metropole and Classic were retained, with the old  Metropole  Opening  as a restaurant. After several occupiers it was opened as Pizza establishment called Ask.

In September 2010 it was announced that the block, which included both the Classic and Metropole were to be demolished to make way for an extension to the Victoria Underground station, providing a new entrance and exit on the north side of Victoria Street. Another fine cinema had joined so many others, as just a memory.

David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk (Thanks to Cinema Treasures for some of the information and images).

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The Avenue Cinema

268 Northfield Avenue,

 London, W5 4UB

AKA–Odeon / Coronet

Date opened: Monday 5th September 1932

Date Closed: Thursday 17th January 1985

Architect: Cecil Aubrey Masey. FRIBA (28 December 1880 – 7 April 1960) 

Seating Capacity: 1538

 

The Avenue Cinema Ealing   c. 1932

Walpole Hall Ltd, owners of the Walpole Cinema, Bond Street Ealing, London W5, opened a new cinema called the Avenue on Northfields Avenue Ealing, on 5th September 1932, with an audience of 1500. Building work had commenced around July 1931. The opening attraction was ‘The Honorable Mr Wong’ and the second feature was ‘Lord Babs’. In its second week ‘Rookery Nook’ was shown for three days, followed on the Thursday with ‘The Wet Parade’. On the stage for a week were a musical act called The Golden Quartette. The cinema was constructed opposite Northfields Piccadilly line station and was opened by the mayor HJ Stowell. He had the novel experience while occupying a balcony seat of listening to his own speech. He had appeared in front of the camera in advance of the opening day giving his speech. In advertising the Avenue would state In Association with Walpole Ealing, and the Walpole would say In Association with Avenue.

Often the Walpole and Avenue would screen the same film. One example is the Eddie Cantor film The Kid From Spain, screened at both in October 1933. It was also shown a short distance away in East Acton at the Savoy. The building was designed In the Spanish style by Cecil Masey. There was a large car park at the rear. The theatre was equipped with Holophane lighting and a Compton organ, which was played on the opening night by Bertram Orsman. It was advertised as Avenue Wonder Organ. On the stage were Michel and Arnova acrobatic dancers. On the opening evening there was a party of twenty four from the Brentford Football Club attending the cinema. The players saw a film of themselves. The film also included the manager Mr HC Curtis and the trainer Bob Kane. There was Dinkie the dog barking a message of good luck. Mr H Usher, a director of Walpole Hall Ltd, and manager of the Walpole Cinema, said the Avenue represented British capital, British material, and British labour.

As the ODEON

Up in the projection room the sound system was Western Electric and the chief operator was a Mr Clement Levingston. Later, Kalee 21 and Cinemeccanica Victoria 5 equipment would be employed. The paybox was on the right hand side as you entered the cinema. A report in the West Middlesex Gazette dated October 8 1932 said: More Northfields people than ever before are becoming regular cinema patrons since the opening of the Avenue. The pictures, the organ and the variety turns combine to make a most enjoyable programme, and people who have said, “I don’t care very much for cinemas, they are usually so stuffy,” find the Avenue comfortable and the theatre well warmed and ventilated.

finally as The Coronet

The cinema housed a cafe, which was eventually closed. In 1972 the organ was removed. Apparently it had received some flood damage in 1970. From the 18th February 1936 the Avenue and the Walpole came under Odeon control. For a short while it was still advertised as the Avenue but stating It as an Associate Odeon Theatre. The Walpole name was never changed but it was still listed as an Associate Odeon Theatre. After Odeon it became the Coronet cinema run by Panton Films from the 15th November 1981,closing on the 17th January 1985 with ‘The Terminator’. Chris, the last chief operator went on to work at the Odeon Richmond.

A trust named the Ealing Cinema Trust tried to have films reinstated, but this didn’t happen. It became a night spot called the Top Hat, opening in May 1988 and closing in 1994. After its night club days it went on to become a Pentecostal church. The CTA visited on 14th October 2000 and organised a film show there. The building is listed grade 2. Like other towns and cities Ealing has lost a number of cinemas, including the Forum, lastly Empire, the Walpole, the Lido, later an ABC, the Grand Hanwell and the Palladium, Ealing Broadway, where WH Smith stands.

Grade II* Listed building since 1974.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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Granada Sutton

15 Carshalton Road West,

 Sutton, SM1 4LD

Date opened: 8th September 1934

Date Closed: 28th August 1975

Architect: Robert Cromie

Interior design: Eugene Molle and Michael Egan

First film shown: “Catherine The Great”

Final film shown: “The Wilby Conspiracy”

Seating Capacity: 2390

Granada Sutton

Construction work on the Plaza Cinema started on 15th February, 1934.  The cinema opened on 8th September 1934. The first movie shown was “Catherine The Great” which starred Douglas Fairbanks. The Granada circuit took control immediately from the opening. However it was not until 1942 that the cinema was re-named GRANADA. Originally named the Plaza cinema, it was built under the control of Lou Morris. The architect was the renowned Robert Cromie who designed many famous London cinemas and theatres. The interior design was entrusted to Eugene Molle and Michael Egan who were both in their twenties at that time.

The imposing frontage comprised of two-inch multicoloured facing bricks with light coloured artificial Portland stone framing the windows which were positioned over the main entrance. The cinema had a full working theatre stage that included a fly tower, with ample dressing rooms facilities. There was a large cafe-ballroom, together with a car park that was included at the rear of the building.

The large 2390 seat auditorium was made up of 1641 seats in the stalls and a further 749 in the circle. The walls and ceiling had a speckled golden granular surface, shaded in parts of the building with rose.  There were a series of lit coves which spanned the ceilings and side walls giving a defused amber light . With intricate grill-work panels either side of the proscenium which concealed the pipes in the organ chambers and ventilation ducts. There was a Compton 3Manual/10Ranks organ installed boasting an illuminated console that changed colour in line with the other colour change sequences within the cinema.  Leo Webber was the organist who played it on the opening. Admission charges ranged between 9d to 2/6d.  After only two years, more that two millions patrons had visited the cinema.

Granada Sutton

Following a hit by a German oil bomb on 20th September 1940, the Plaza closed for a month to carry out repairs during the autumn of 1940. The cinema re-opened on 21st October 1940

Apart from it’s cinema operation, the Granada’s stage was put into constant use for three decades, providing pantomimes, famous artists, operas and ballet presentations for the residents of Sutton and surrounding districts.

With intentions to start running the cinema as a bingo club, the companies application for a license was refused in 1974.  To add to this, the cinema suffered fire damage at the stage end of the structure which led to the closure on the 28th August 1975.  By this time a license to operate bingo had been approved. However, the building remained closed and was demolished, making way for an office block.

The final film screened was  “The Wilby Conspiracy” starring Sydney Poitier.

©chestercinemas.co.uk

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Walpole Cinema

18-22 Bond Street, Ealing,

 London, W5 5AA

 

Date opened:  Monday 29th July 1912

Date Closed:  Saturday 28th October 1972

Architect: John Stanley Coombe Beard FRIBA (17 July 1890 – 1970)

First General Manager: Edgar Sinclair

Seating Capacity: 1600

 

WALPOLE cinema Ealing

The Walpole cinema Bond Street Ealing was a conversion of a skating rink known as the Walpole Hall Roller Skating Rink, designed by Alfred Burr. The directors were a Mr Thomas Bernard Percy and his brother WH Percy. They formed Walpole Hall Ltd in 1908. It’s conversion to a cinema was undertaken by architect J Stanley Beard. It opened its doors on the 29th July 1912. It was opened by the mayor of Ealing at three o’clock. The Bioscope said a very large and fashionable audience was present. There were several prominent people associated with Ealing present. It was said that it was the largest picture theatre in Middlesex with seating for 1600.It was reported that in the interval refreshments were provided on a very lavish scale.

The projection room was equipped with Ernemann projectors. Later BTH SUPA machines were installed. Finally, Kalee machines projected the images. The first manager was a Mr Edgar Sinclair. At the time of opening the proprietors are listed as United Kingdom Picture Theatres Ltd. It seems, but not very clear, that they leased the theatre from Walpole Hall until 1925 and then it was taken back by Walpole Hall Ltd. If anyone can elaborate on this, I would be pleased to hear from you.

The entrance vestibule of the Walpole had a semi circular dome, studded with many bulbs. The walls were treated in vitreous mosaic, with the dominant colour blue. Entrance was through swing doors to the vestibule lounge. From the lounge the patron passed into a small square corridor and from there into the theatre.

WALPOLE cinema, Ealing

The plaster screen of the WALPOLE Ealing

At the time of opening the screen was made of plaster. The ceiling was treated in chocolate brown to reflect a minimum amount of light rays. It is stated that the operator’s box projects into the theatre in the form of an oriol bay. The managers office was at the rear of the auditorium. The press reported that the United Kingdom Picture Theatres Ltd were fined at Brentford magistrates five pounds in February 1916 for permitting gangways to be obstructed by people standing at the Walpole.  In 1925 the Walpole was renovated. There was an orchestra called The Walpole Orchestra. The first film at the re- opening, which took place on Monday November 16th 1925 Was ‘Ypres’. It was reported that Mr H Usher, the manager invited children attending the Ealing elementary schools a free performance of the film on Saturday November the 21st. The press said that the utmost pains have been taken to ensure a musical treat for patrons of the Walpole. In 1931 Walpole Hall Ltd offered shares to the staff. They said they all greatly appreciated the kindness of the managing director, suggested as a motto for the staff “Preserve while Percy’s here.”

The Bioscope dated June 24th 1931 says: Walpole Hall Ltd, proprietors of the Walpole Cinema Ealing, are to erect a super cinema at Northfields Avenue, Northfields, Ealing. Plans are to be prepared by Cecil Masey, FRIBA and the cinema will have a seating capacity of about 1700. It is anticipated that a start will be made within a month or so. On the 5th September 1932 the company opened the Avenue cinema on Northfields Avenue Ealing, which became known as Spanish City. Odeon theatres took the Walpole and the Avenue on a long lease,  Thomas Percy and his brother then ceased to have more than a freeholder’s interest in them. This took place on 18th February 1936. Rank closed the Walpole cinema on the 28th October 1972 with a double bill ‘If’ and ‘Goodbye Columbus’. The building was converted into a carpet store and later a rehearsal room for rock groups. In May 1981 the demolition hammer knocked down this once popular hall. An office block was built called Walpole House, used by Thames Valley University. The frontage of the cinema remains against the side wall of a building, just off Mattock Lane. A reminder of Ealing’s early cinema days.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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Gaumont Peckham

169 Peckham High Street,

 London, SE15 5SL

 

Date opened:  8th February 1932

Date closed:  14th January 1961

Architects:  Frank T Verity and Samuel Beverley.

First film shown:  “The Calendar” starring Edna Best

Final film shown:  “The Bulldog Breed” starring Norman Wisdom

Seating Capacity: 2250

 

The first Gaumont Palace of 1932, run by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT), and the first one in London, opened its doors on February 8th in Peckham, South East London. It was erected on the site of the old Peckham Hippodrome in the High Street. It was designed by notable architects Frank T Verity and Samuel Beverley.

The foyer was larger, larger than many of the West End cinemas. The auditorium ceiling was slightly domed and was painted in soft tones, spring flowers, the complete effect of the auditorium being light, giving a feeling of freedom and spaciousness.

The auditorium was coloured Chinese red and parchment. The main architectural lines were green with silver and old gold and purple silk panels. The tableau curtains (tabs) were silk in a brilliant shade of green. Carpeting in the stalls and circle were coloured red relieved by green wreaths. Seating, which was 2,250, 950 being in the circle was coloured soft green. There was standing room for another 250 people.

The proscenium opening was 38 feet wide and the stage had a depth of 18 feet. Dressing rooms were under the stage

Gaumont Palace, Peckham, London.

The cinema was built with 655 tons of steel-work, one of the main girders alone weighing an incredible 60 tons. The steel-work was designed under the direction of the architects and was supplied and erected in just twenty-four weeks by the company Moreland, Hayne and Co Ltd.

It was opened by the mayor Alderman J. Pearlman J.P., and one of the attractions was a three manual Compton organ ten rank. The sound system was British Acoustic. Stage lighting was by Strand Electric based at Floral Street, London.

In 1937 the cinema became, like others just Gaumont, a decision was made to drop the Palace name. In 1941 it became a victim of the war and suffered bomb damage, which closed the cinema for a while. Unfortunately the building was hit a second time in July 1944 when a V1 rocket badly damaged the side of the facade. This time the theatre was closed until 22nd January 1945. In 1948 the building was dark for four months for refurbishment.

The first attraction was ‘The Calendar’. The second feature was ‘Almost a Divorce’ On the stage a Bobby Howell and his band entertained. Closure as a cinema came on the 14th January 1961 with the screening of ‘The Bulldog Breed’ and ‘The Final Dream’.

Apart from be the first Gaumont to open in 1932 and the first in London, it was also the first Rank Organisation cinema to be converted into a Top Rank bingo club, opening on the 15th May 1961. It was modernised in the 1970s, sadly removing all traces of its art deco past. It was eyes down until 1998, closing as a Mecca club. The wrecking ball came along in the summer of 2002 and the cinema went the way of many others. A block of flats replaced the house of dreams. There was a reminder of its glorious past, the block was called Gaumont House.

David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk

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