Birkenhead, CH42 9NA
Architect: A Ernest Shennan. F.R.I.B.A.
Date Opened: 2nd August 1930.
Seating capacity: 2330- Stalls: 1630 Balcony: 700.
First film shown: “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney” starring Norma Shearer.
Date Closed: 3rd March 1973.
Final film shown: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” starring Clint Eastwood.
The Plaza Cinema built on Borough Road, Birkenhead, was owned by the local company Bedford Cinemas Ltd which was formed by J F Wood and his colleagues.
Described on its opening as a “luxurious place of amusement”. The frontage was 180′ in width and constructed of red sandstone faced brick with the decorative features on the main facade picked out with white artificial stone that created a Neo-Classical appearance.
The cinema opened on 2nd August 1930. The first feature film shown was “The Last of Mrs. Cheyney” starring Norma Shearer.
The entrance doors were placed centrally and were constructed of walnut timber and glass, these led to the receiving vestibule and cash desk area. After purchasing your ticket you were able to enter the main entrance foyer that was 122′ in length by nearly 20′ in height. The floor of this lounge was in travertine marble with complementing marble wall niches and a wall fountain. At either end of this foyer communicating doors led to spacious crush halls that gave quick and easy access to stalls with a staircase that led customers to the tea lounge and balcony. Concealed trough lighting in these areas was subtle and diffused that produced a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
The cafe lounge was located on the mezzanine level. The decoration theme was shades of stem green and daffodil yellow with soft furnishings of walnut tables and chairs. It could accommodate 150 customers.
Nearby there was a novel feature of a tastefully furnished reading and writing room. The two areas could also be used as a waiting a lounge.
The auditorium was immense with a capacity comprised of 1630 seats in the stalls with a further 700 in the balcony, totaling 2330. More than 2135 yards of luxurious blue and gold Wilton carpet was laid. All walls were lined up to a height of 10′ with bottocino marble. Concealed lighting again was used to full advantage on the vaulted main ceiling and domes set into the ceiling at the rear of the stalls. The ceiling were painted in light blue with silvery and indefinite clouds artistically added. Additional lighting came from French glass fitting tastefully placed around the auditorium.
It boasted a fully equipped stage, the proscenium opening was 40′ in width and the depth of the stage was 18′. It was envisaged that a screen with a width of 37′ could be comfortably positioned within the proscenium. There was a lighting board on the stage. Four dressing rooms were provided for the artists.
There was also an added feature of a John Compton 3 manual/12 rank cinema organ. The lift apparatus could bring both the organ console and the orchestra up into the clear vision of the audience. The console could also revolve on its own platform.
Motorists were well provided for with a free car park for two hundred and fifty vehicles.
At the beginning of 1941 the cinema was damaged by bombs which forced it to close for repairs, re-opening in April of that same year.
Like many large cinemas, the Plaza began to struggle with falling attendances during the 1950s and 60s. To supplement it’s income, part-time bingo was introduced during the mid 1960s but returned to full time cinema use fairly quickly. The final film shown was “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” starring Clint Eastwood on 3rd March 1973.
Mecca took over the building and then operated it as one of their Bingo Clubs which lasted until November 1997.
The building was left in a derelict state. Over a period of time it was vandalised and even became a victim of an arson attack.
The building was demolished in May 2001.