New Victoria/Gaumont/Odeon Cinema, Preston.

Odeon Preston

150 Church Street,

Preston, PR1 3BU

 

A cinema in the process of construction on this site on Church Street, Preston was nearing completion when Provincial Cinematograph Theatres purchased the unfinished project.  The cinema was to have been named the Coliseum. However, PCT had other ideas. They engaged the services of architect W.E. Trent to create a huge building that swallowed up the original cinema design. In fact the space allocated for the Coliseum’s 900 seat auditorium became the crush hall area!

The enormous crush hall that was initially intended to be an auditorium.

The new high spec auditorium with stage facilities was built onto the existing structure.  The splendid ornate plasterwork was carried out by John Gibirdi, a firm that was based in Preston.

The local plaster workers entrusted to carry out the fine detail plaster at the New Victoria Theatre.

The stalls area seated 1450 patrons, while the balcony area accommodated a further 670 giving a total capacity of 2120. A café was integral to the building.  The New Victoria Theatre was equipped with a Wurlitzer 2Manual/9Rank organ with a console that was installed centrally on a lift.

The elaborate splay walls and proscenium of the New Victoria Theatre.

Under PCT management the sumptuous “Super Cinema” opened its doors on Monday 17th September 1928 and named the New Victoria Theatre. Renowned organist Leslie J. Rogers played the Wurlitzer organ at the Gala Opening. An orchestra played music to accompany the moving silent images.

The impressive tiered dome ceiling that dominated the auditorium.

Within six months Provincial Cinematograph Theatres were taken over by Gaumont British Theatres in February of 1929 who became the owners of the New Victoria Theatre. However the cinema was not renamed Gaumont until 1952. 

The auditorium as viewed from the stage.

As it quickly adapted to sound business was good, thanks to the first run supply of films provided by Gaumont British management.  Throughout the heyday of cinema the New Victoria constantly enjoyed capacity houses. However, like most large cinemas it began to struggle in the 1950s as audience numbers dwindled.  Rank had added the now Gaumont into its portfolio of cinemas. The company decided that the building was to be drastically altered in order for it to survive. Ambitious plans were drawn up and in 1962 the cinema closed. Construction work started immediately to transform the building by removing the balcony, then extending a solid floor across in its place to form one level.

The rather plain but modern new Odeon Preston that seated 1229 patrons.

The new Preston Odeon pictured from the stage.

This space was to provide a new modern cinema in the upper level. The original stalls area would be remodeled into a Top Rank Ballroom Suite, complete with a fully sprung maple wood floor.  The grand reopening took place on 28th January 1963.  The 1229 seat cinema was now an Odeon showing its first film “On The Beat” starring Norman Wisdom. British film star Leslie Phillips and comedian Stanley Baxter were there in person.

The mixture of cinema and ballroom seem a winning combination during the 1960s. A second 105 seat cinema was added in the space that was once the café.  A trend with both large cinema circuits was to put extra screens into their picture palaces in an attempt to encourage more people through the doors.

An early 90s photograph of the Odeon Preston.

However, once the multiplex operators started to open purpose built multi screen units in the 1980s the competition became intense. The Preston Odeon on Church Street was no exception to this challenge. The cinema closed on 12th September 1992.

copyright whitechestercinemas.co.uk