PLAZA CINEMA FLINT- 80 years & counting!

Deeside Enterprise Cinemas Ltd.

 

 

Following the end of the 1930s depression, news started to circulate around the Welsh town of Flint that an ambitious plan was underway to build a luxurious cinema in Church Street.

Deeside Enterprise Cinemas Ltd already had several cinemas in the area now had ambitions to build a cinema that was to be “the flag ship” of their business. Many thought this was madness with money being so short, but the plan became reality. A budget of approximately twenty five thousand pounds secured the site with building work commencing.  The builders were John Hughes (Contractors) Ltd , a Wrexham based company.  Although the groundwork was completed promptly, work stopped with rumours of financial problems, these were denied later by the directors with an explanation that it was purely a hold-up with building materials, such as the steelwork, etc.

 

 

 

 

Sidney Colwyn Foulkes OBE

 

 

 

Work re-started, and the structure was built in line with the plans drawn up by chartered architect Sidney Colwyn Foulkes.OBE, an eminent architect having achieved a prestigious scholarship to study architecture under Professor Sir Charles Reilly, Head of the Liverpool School of Architecture.  Sidney was an ingenious cinema designer, pioneer of the celebrated American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Freeman of the Borough, founding member of the Historic Buildings Council for Wales and was intensively active in the Council for Protection of Rural Wales. Sidney had previously been given the commission by Deeside Enterprise Cinemas to build their Plaza cinema in nearby Queensferry.  The Guardian newspaper described Sidney Colwyn Foulkes as an architect of extraordinary ingenuity and persistence. The company that he formed is now London based, trading as Colwyn Foulkes.

 

 

 

 

 

It soon became apparent that here was a cinema that could be compared in quality of design with those being built by the major UK cinema circuits. No expense seemed to be spared with the materials used in construction or indeed when the cinema was ready to be fitted out. Seating, carpets and drapes and all soft furnishing were of the finest quality and specification. The stage curtains made of silver velour were complemented with silver festoon screen curtains, their tracks and control gear amounted to a staggering one thousand pounds. Lighting was given much attention with the installation of the ultimate Holophane illumination system.  The series of ceiling coves troughs that led the eye towards the proscenium housed the lighting battens that were attached in several individual circuits to a complex mechanical device which in turn, once programmed, would move the radial dimmers through numerous sequences suppling the varying current to the circuits of lamps in the battens, this in turn provided the audience with a spectacular supple display of continuous colour change in the auditorium as Holophane took them through the full spectrum of colour.  Some ideas were abandoned, such as a theatre organ and gold fish ponds that were to be a feature at the top of the circle steps.

In the auditorium there were the Colwyn Foulkes trademark heavily silvered pillars, three either side of the stage which reflected the continually changing colours with amazing effect.  Further notable features   were the signs of the Zodiac figures which ran across the top of the proscenium and along the walls of the auditorium, again these were heavily silvered to mirror the Holophane lighting to full advantage.

The seating capacity was a respectable 1018, 708 seats in the stalls and 310 in the balcony.  Prices of admission in the stalls was 3d, 9d, 1/-, while the balcony seats commanded a price of 1s/6d.  Usual continuous daily performances were between 6.15pm & 10.45pm.

 

 

 

The Opening Programme  (see the complete programme at the foot of this page)

Plaza Flint’s first manager.

 

 

The film that opened the PLAZA

The official opening of the Plaza cinema  was by the Mayor of Flint taking place on Monday 26th December 1938 at 2.30pm. In the opening party were the directors of Deeside Enterprise Cinemas Ltd, including the managing director, Councilor T Williams who thanked “all concerned with the construction of this fine building”.  Even local beauty queens were in attendance at this Grand Gala Opening.  The first film shown starred Gracie Fields and Victor McLaglen in “We’re Going To Be Rich”, supported by a Walt Disney cartoon and Movietone News.  The first manager was Richard Waring.

The PLAZA, re-named WEDGEWOOD picture courtesy of Steve Williams

The PLAZA prospered throughout the following years providing Flint with a cinema that was considered to be one of the finest in the area. In the mid-sixties Wedgewood Cinemas bought Deeside Enterprise Cinemas.  In line with most cinema buildings of that time, after years of heavy use and now with new owners, it was decided that the Plaza Flint would close for a month while a major refurbishment programme took place. It re-opened on 26th December 1967 exactly 29 years to the date of the original opening.  Along with the new look came a new sign above the building naming the cinema Wedgewood.

 

 

The last picture show for the PLAZA staff

These were turbulent years with rapidly declining cinema audiences across the UK.  Many independent operators chose to sell their cinemas to other types of leisure industry companies, and sadly this was the case for the Wedgewood/Plaza Flint as it finished it’s cinema business in 1975 becoming a bingo hall in October of that year.  It then had several owners, all of which operated the building for bingo, before the “bingo bubble burst” and the site was closed in 2011 and remained locked for several years

 

 

 

Frozen in time! The interior of the PLAZA as new owners prepare to breath movie life back into the building.

 

During August 2016 Ashley Whyatt,  who runs two independent cinemas in Essex and Kent, placed a formal bid to buy Flint’s former Palace Bingo and Social  which closed in 2011.

In December 2016 movies returned to the building with the opening of the Gaumont Plaza.

The new owners have the remarkable courage and ambition to bring movies back into the building for which it was originally designed. At it’s opening, Flint’s Mayor heaped praise on the new owners, stating that the venture had been achieved entirely with private funding.  Three screens now provide plenty of movie choice for Flint and the suburbs.

The Plaza Cinema Flint is a grade II listed building

 

The Opening Programme

 

Roger Shone©chestercinemas