Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6QE
Owners: Paramount Film Company Of America.
Architect: Frank Thomas Verify and Samuel Beverley.
Building cost: approximately £250.000.
Seating Capacity: 2604.
Date opened: Monday 7th September 1931.
Date Closed: 26th of November 2002.
Organ installed: Wurlitzer three manual, nineteen ranks theatre organ, which was removed in 1964.
First film shown: ‘Monte Carlo’.
Last film shown: ‘Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets’
The Paramount, later the Odeon Newcastle was described as the north’s most elaborate cinema and was officially opened on Monday 7th September 1931 with the film ‘Monte Carlo’ starring Jeanette MacDonald and Jack Buchanan.
There was also a stage presentation by Francis A. Mangan ‘ The Ladder of Roses. The cost to build this magnificent theatre was approximately £250,000, a tremendous sum back then.
The architect was Frank Thomas Verify, F.R.I.B.A, in association with his partner Samuel Beverley F.R.I.B.A. Verify designed many cinemas, including the Paramount in Paris and the Paramount, later Odeon Manchester. The proscenium width was fifty- four foot wide and thirty foot deep. One of the attractions was the Wurlitzer three manual, nineteen ranks theatre organ, which was removed in 1964. Seating was for 2,604 – made up of: Stalls, 1,374; royal circle, grand circle and balcony, 1,230. A report in the BIOSCOPE dated 9th September 1931 says: As far as the seating is concerned, the minutest details have been considered to ensure the perfect comfort of patrons. The chairs have been specially designed following research work over three years. During that time hundreds of X ray photographs have been taken at the London hospitals to discover in which particular style of chair the maximum comfort can be obtained. Everything, even to the correct curvature of the spine has been carefully considered.
The auditorium was decorated in the style of the Baroque period and the colour scheme consisted of blue, buffs and deep rose tints, with touches of gold, silver and marble Dutch metalling, giving it pleasing colour harmony. Regarding the auditorium, the BIOSCOPE said: It can safely be said that the interior decorations of this huge theatre are among the finest in Europe. All effects have been achieved by free painting on the walls, which has been carried out by special artists from London. All pure decoration as far back as the ancient Egyptian Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Grecian Empire, and the Roman Empire originally took this form.
The building was constructed throughout of steel and concrete and almost Fire proof. The press said: The operating room has been constructed on the Roof of the building and is adjoined with the rewinding rooms, rectifying room and generating room. The situation of the operating chamber and the provision of Fire shutters renders it impossible at any time for fire to get into the auditorium itself. The whole of the projecting room is surrounded by fourteen inch walls with portholes of Fire-resisting glass. Should an explosion occur the roof would blow off before the fire reached the auditorium. Western Electric sound apparatus has been installed.
In November 1939 a number of Paramount cinemas were taken over by Odeon. The Newcastle theatre was re-named on 22nd April 1940. Many famous stars trod the theatre’s boards, including Billy Cotton, Joe Loss and George Formby. In 1954 Cinemascope was installed, and in the ’70s a number of pop stars belted out their songs. These included the Who and Rod Stewart. In 1975 like many others, the cinema was tripled, with 1,228 seats in screen one, which was in the circle area, and had been extended. The stalls area accommodated screens, two and three. There was 158 in screen two, and 250 in three. In 1980, a fourth screen was added, which had room for 361.
The building was a grade two listed building by 1999, and English Heritage said it was the best surviving Paramount cinema in Britain, with a well composed facade and rich interior with Lalique glass fittings. In 2001 Odeon built a new multiplex in the city and successfully applied to have the cinema De-listed to maximise the site value. The mighty Paramount/Odeon closed in 2002 and remained empty. Demolition began in December 2016. The front of the building collapsed into the Street. Luckily no one was hurt. Another fine cinema gone, now only to be seen in photographs.
David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk