Manchester, M1 4PL
Date opened: Monday 6th October 1930
First film shown: “The Love Parade”
Date Closed: September 2004
Architect: Frank T. Verity & Samuel Beverley
Original Seating Capacity: 3000
THE magnificent Paramount cinema, Oxford Street, Manchester opened for business on the 6th October 1930. It was designed by Frank Thomas Verity and Samuel Beverley, known as Verity and Beverley, and originally had seating for 3000 patrons. There were 1,400 in the stalls, mezzanine 650, and the grand circle and balcony 950. The balcony and stalls seats had plush backs and brown hide seats. The mezzanine seats were all plush. It was said that Paramount broke away from convention, the walls of the theatre relieved with figures and canopied cathedral niches, which added to the atmosphere.
The paybox was situated in the centre of the main entrance, which was flanked by artistically designed display frames built into the walls. The foyer area, which housed cloakrooms, telephone kiosks and other conveniences for customers, had lighting that was concealed by the mouldings of the concave ceiling. The auditorium was decorated in a free treatment of the Baroque period. The mezzanine foyer walls were in dark red and silver. The balcony foyer walls consisted of a pale green tint. There was no expense spared and all flooring was covered in heavy Wilton carpet in a rich brown design.
The main ceiling was concealed and treated in sky blue with a white cloud effect. In addition to lighting concealed in the mouldings, there were six thirty six light old gold chandeliers. The proscenium front was in old gold with a hollow section in bright gold, illuminated by concealed lights. A four rank Wurlitzer Hope-Jones unit organ was a feature. The console was on a rise and fall platform.
Up in the spacious projection room measuring thirty feet by twelve feet were three American Super Simplex projectors, made in New York. These were installed in all Paramount theatres. The picture throw was one hundred and forty feet using Taylor Hobson lenses. The lamp houses were Hall and Connolly, and the sound system was Western Electric. The press said that it is believed that it was the first theatre in Manchester to install a Brenograph effects machine. The equipment was installed by Frank Brockliss Ltd through their Manchester manager Mr W Chilton.
The opening attraction was ‘The Love Parade’. The Paramount Symphony orchestra, consisting of twenty four players and under the direction of Mr Lionel Falkman gave a find rendering of Tschaikovsky’s 1812 overture. There was also a stage ballet. At the time of opening there was a staff of 200 and performances were from 12noon until 11pm.
Following the performance there was a reception for hundreds of guests at the Midland Hotel and dancing was enjoyed until the early hours. Some Paramount theatres, including Newcastle, were taken over by Odeon in November 1939. The Liverpool Paramount wasn’t taken over by Odeon until 1942. The Manchester cinema was named Odeon in 1940.
In 1973 it went the way of many 1930s cinemas and was carved up into several screens, first as a twin, and ending up as a seven screen cinema in 1992. In 2004 it was all over for this magnificent building, having screened moving pictures for seventy-four years. It was considered for listing but had been altered too much. The building sadly suffered the fate of so many others and fell victim to the demolition ball.
David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk
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Manchester, M1 5EJ
Date opened: Monday 21st October 1935
First film shown: “The 39 Steps”
Date Closed: Sunday 28th January 1973
Architect: William T. Benslyn and James Morrison
Interior design: Theodore Komisarjevsky
Original Seating Capacity: 2300
The Hippodrome Theatre closed it’s doors for the final show on 2nd March 1935. Incredibly in six months that building had been demolished and the new 2300 seat Gaumont cinema had been constructed in it’s place. Initially the building had been commissioned by Granada Theatres, however, it opened as a Gaumont cinema. A deal was struck between the Granada and Gaumont British Theatres shortly before the cinema opened it’s doors on 21st October 1935. The first film shown was “The Thirty Nine Steps”, starring Robert Donat.
The Oxford Street exterior was in an Italian Renaissance style, clad with buff coloured faience tiles and dominated by striking neon lettering on the recessed read-o-graph above the canopy.The architects were William T. Benslyn and James Morrison, with the interiors under the supervision of Theodore Komisarjevsky who designed a lavish mirrored entrance hall with a grand staircase which led to the balcony. The auditorium had seating for 1300 in the stalls, with the large sweeping circle accommodating 1000 seats. The side walls were arched with gold grill work decoration and topped off with a fabulous ornate ceiling.
The proscenium, which was framed with pilasters, was 50′ wide. The stage was 23′ deep.
A Wurlitzer organ (4Manual-14Rank) was installed. Stanley Tudor played the organ on the opening night. He became the Gaumont’s resident organist, staying until 1953.
A well known regional venue for the long running roadshow presentations of the 50s & 60s such as “South Pacific” and “The Sound Of Music” which played at the Gaumont for two and a half years from April 1965.
Within the week of the converted Odeon cinema re-opening as a twin cinema which was on the opposite side of Oxford Street, the Gaumont closed on Sunday 28th January 1973.
Rotters Nightclub eventually opened, utilizing the ground floor and basement with the circle area disused. A false ceiling was installed across from the front of the circle to the stage.
The building was demolished during 1990 and replaced with a multistorey car park.
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Stockport, SK1 1SP
Date opened: Saturday 8th October 1932
First films shown: “Out Of The Blue”& “Jailbirds”
Present: Open for business
Architect: William Thornley
Original Seating Capacity: 1878
Upgraded from a Grade II to a Grade II* Listed building in 2000.
Roger Shone and David Ellis were fortunate to attend the opening of a similar project at the Plaza Stockport. By clicking on the button below, you are able to take a virtual tour of the building. The Plaza is not only a cinema, but has a full working stage which is put to full use with professional shows staged on a regular basis.The virtual tour gives an insight as to what can be done with careful thought when refurbishing these theatres. David and Roger highly recommend a visit to the Plaza.
The magnificent auditorium of The Plaza
The Plaza cinema was and is a fine example of Art Deco design. In the projection room, the projectors were equipped to show sound films when required. Originally the Compton organ was used to play music while the silent newsreels were shown. In fact the Compton organ was the first to be installed with internal colour lighting. The building was classed as a cine-variety theatre.
After the war, in the 1950s The Plaza was refurbished and introduced 3-D screenings and Cinemascope.
Stretford, M32 0HA
Date opened: Monday 12th October 1936
First film shown: “Tudor Rose” starring Nova Pillbeam
Date Closed as a cinema: September 1965
Architect: Henry Elder
Original Seating Capacity: 2000
Designed by the architect Henry Elder, it was considered to be the height of Art Deco design both inside and out. It was opened on Monday 12th October 1936 by the Mayor of Stretford.
Occupying a site on the junction of Edge Lane and Chester Road in Stretford, a suburb of Greater Manchester. It’s unique curvy art deco designed frontage was given many descriptions, the most popular being like resembling the curvy lines of a cash register- claiming to “represent the business aspect of cinema”?
There were two entrances to the building, the primary one on Chester Road which had a short pedestrian approach to the entrance doors, but this was removed when the A56 was widened. The other entrance was on Edge Lane.
The impressive entrance foyer of Venetian marble, featured large wall murals by Frederick Harry Baines depicting contemporary cinema scenes. The entrance hall led you to the auditorium decorated in art deco style with hues of silver-blue and tangerine.The building was modernistic, having many features such as sound-proofing and under-seat heating. It was also the first cinema in Britain to make use of concealed neon lighting. It had a seating capacity of 1,400 in the stalls and 600 in the balcony.
The first film shown was Tudor Rose, starring Nova Pillbeam. Ticket prices ranged from 6d for a seat in the stalls to a hefty 3s for a best seat in the balcony. There was a restaurant/cafe that seated 146 diners.
Films often gave way to live stage performances. Among numerous top star artists appearing at the Longford was Julie Andrews. During the Second World War, due to bomb damage at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, the Halle Orchestra performed on stage many times.
In August of 1950 the Longford became the Stretford Essoldo when the business changed ownership, being taken over by the Newcastle based Essoldo Chain
Cinema operation ceased in September 1965 when Essoldo changed the use of the building to bingo. Later on this was sold to Rank and became a Top Rank Bingo Club. This closed during the mid 1990s, leaving the building derelict.
1994 -The former Longford Theatre was awarded a Grade II Listed building.