Liverpool, L18 5HU
Date opened: Saturday 31st March 1928
Date Closed: Saturday 10th April 1971
Architect: Arthur Ernest Shennan FRIBA (1887 – 1959)
Seating Capacity: 1450
First film shown: “Sorrows of Satan” starring Adolph Menjou.
Final film shown: “A Shot in the Dark” starring Peter Sellers.
The Plaza cinema Allerton, which went on to become a Gaumont, Odeon and Classic, was owned by JF Wood, who ran Bedford Cinemas (1928) Ltd. At the time of opening on 31st March 1928 it was taken over by General Theatres Corporation (GTC). The Plaza was designed by Alfred Ernest Shennon and had seating for 800 in the stalls and 650 in the balcony.
A Wurlitzer organ with eight ranks was installed in August 1928, having previously been in operation at the London Palladium. The first person to play the thunderous instrument was Reginald Foort. The first film to hit the screen was ‘Sorrows of Satan’. The entrance foyer was one of the largest in the country and measured fifty eight feet by fifty four feet. There was a central fountain and there was telephone situated in one of four alcoves for use by the public. A goldfish pond was another feature. One of the projectionists cleaned the pond and lost a fish. This was spotted by the manager, who made the operator buy another.
At the time of opening it was stated the Plaza was the only all electric theatre in Liverpool. It had no emergency gas lighting. The secondary lighting was provided by 60 volt 200 amp knife accumulators, which were charged during the morning hours. The frontage was illuminated by six double floodlights and there were three Plaza signs. One horizontal on the frontage and two vertical, one on each side. Each sign employed 160 Osram daylight lamps. Each letter was 3ft 9 inches. A Bulman screen was installed and gave a twenty foot picture. Stage illumination consisted of red, white, blue and orange lamps at the front of the stage and above the screen.
There were two floodlights installed in boxes at each side of the proscenium opening. The cinema housed a tea lounge on the first floor with a fully fitted kitchen attached. There was a nursery complete with toys and and rocking horses where patrons could leave their children. The walls sported a painted freeze of animals in a jungle. In September 1929 it was equipped for sound and the RCA system was adopted. The first talkie was ‘The Valiant’ starring Paul Muni. Kalee 21 machines, which came on the market in 1947 were eventually installed. Wide screen pictures were on offer in December 1954 when the Cinemascope film ‘The Black Shield of Falworth’ was played.
By this time the cinema had become the Gaumont, having had a name change from the 11th September 1950. It changed from being a Gaumont to an Odeon on 25th November 1962, then in December 1967 the name changed again, this time to Classic. The end for this grand cinema came on the 10th April 1971 with the screening of ‘A Shot in the Dark’. The demolition hammer fell and a new Classic was built on the site. This later became a Cannon, Virgin, ABC and finally another Odeon.
David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk