Stockport, SK1 1SP
Date opened: Friday 7th October 1932
First films shown: “Out Of The Blue”& “Jailbirds”
Owners: Read, Snape and Ward cinema circuit.
Architect: William Thornley.
Construction cost: £42.000.
Original Seating Capacity: 1878
Upgraded from a Grade II to a Grade II* Listed building in 2000.
Present: Open for business.
Roger Shone and David Ellis were fortunate to attend the opening of a similar project at the Plaza Stockport. By clicking on the button below, you are able to take a virtual tour of the building. The Plaza is not only a cinema, but has a full working stage which is put to full use with professional shows staged on a regular basis.The virtual tour gives an insight as to what can be done with careful thought when refurbishing these theatres. David and Roger highly recommend a visit to the Plaza.
The magnificent auditorium of The Plaza
The Plaza cinema was and is a fine example of Art Deco design. In the projection room, the projectors were equipped to show sound films when required. Originally the Compton organ was used to play music while the silent newsreels were shown. In fact the Compton organ was the first to be installed with internal colour lighting. The building was classed as a cine-variety theatre.
After the war, in the 1950s The Plaza was refurbished and introduced 3-D screenings and Cinemascope.
On the 11th December 2009 there was nearly a full house to welcome the Plaza Stockport back as a cinema. The cinema was built in 1932 and restored to its former glory. Roger Shone and I took our seats in the balcony, an experience only to be had in a handful of cinemas today.
The evening kicked off with an introduction by Gary Trinder, vice chairman and technical director of Stockport Trust. Councillor Kevin Hogg went on to perform the opening ceremony. Following the opening speeches the Kate. Charlton dancers accompanied by the Plaza orchestra performed The Gold Diggers Song. It was down memory lane again after this when Marilyn Hill-Smith performed a selection of Gracie Field’s numbers.
Next we were given a dose of laughter when Laurel and Hardy filled the screen. This had the house roaring with laughter. Music was on the list next when the mighty Compton came to life played by Richard Hills. The lights then went down and the feature was beamed onto the screen projected by Westar machines. This was ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’, which was shown in the correct ratio of 4×3.
The 1878 seat cinema had its grand opening on the 7th October 1932 and was opened by Councillor James Penny, the Mayor of Stockport. There was a colour lighting display and the mighty Compton organ was played by Cyril Chadwick. Originally the projection room was equipped with Kalee eight machines and the first feature to run through the gate a film called ‘Out of the Blue’. The theatre was equipped with the spectacular Holophane lighting system, which created some wonderful lighting effects.
Equipment for the 2009 re-opening was supplied by Jed Atherton from Omnex. He had been a trainee operator at the Plaza back in 1964. The equipment consisted of two Westar machines with Westrex 2001 sound heads. Illumination was supplied by Peerless arcs converted to xenon giving an output of 2k. A tower was also a feature but films were usually screened in 2000ft rolls so changeovers were done.
The cinema employed Westar machines from 1948, which remained until the closure in 1966. They were taken out when Mecca ran it as a bingo club. Mecca ran it as a cinema from from July 1965 until the 31st December 1966. Mecca then ran it as bingo until 1998 when Mecca was run by Rank.
Stockport Trust purchased the building in March 2000 and stage shows were ‘re-introduced in the autumn. On the 1st December 2000 cine variety returned with an orchestra. The organ was played by Nigel Ogden and the film was 42nd Street. Restoration work came to a staggering three point two million, part from a lottery grant. The cost to build it in 1932 Was £42,000.
David A Ellischestercinemas.co.uk