Widnes, WA8 6TN
Date opened: Monday 25th October 1937.
Date Closed: Saturday 7th March 1970.
Owners: Cheshire County Cinemas.
Architects: William and Segar Owen.
Total seating capacity: 1,021 seats.
Main Building Contractor: Walter Peak of Warrington.
First General Manager: Harold Cookson.
First film shown: “Feather Your Nest” starring George Formby and Polly Ward.
Final film shown: “”The Smashing Bird I Used to Know”” starring Renée Asherson, Patrick Mower.
The Plaza cinema, Peelhouse Lane, Widnes was another cinema run by Cheshire County Cinemas, run by the Godfrey family. They ran a number of cinemas in the area, the head office situated at the Empress Runcorn.
The Plaza opened its doors on the 25th October 1937 with the George Formby offering “Feather Your Nest”, made at Ealing Studios.
The building was designed by William and Segar Owen and housed 1,021 seats, 672. of them in the stalls. The cinema, which took only five months to construct was opened by the mayor councillor P.Hanley and his wife. Construction was carried out by Warrington builders Walter Peak. Plaster work was provided by another Warrington firm W. Sudlow. Seating was provided by cinema and theatre furnishers Harrison, the colour being green. There was plenty of leg room and patrons didn’t need to stand to let people pass.
The first person to manage the building was a Mr Harold Cookson, who became known as uncle Harold at children’s matinees. The cinema had a spacious foyer with an island paybox. There was a balcony foyer equipped with luxurious settees. There were five exits from the stalls area and three from the balcony. It was claimed that the building could be emptied in two minutes. The walls of the auditorium were plain. Fibrous plaster grilles, which were part of the ventilating system were over the proscenium arches on both sides of the stage and added to the effect.
Up in the operating box Western Electric Mirrorphonic sound was employed. At the time of closure Westar machines and Peerless carbon arcs were in use. These had been in for many years and other Cheshire County Cinemas had them installed including the Empress and Regal Northwich.
The cinema closed on Saturday 7th March 1970 for alterations, The last films screened were “The Smashing Bird I Used to Know” and “Mission Batangas”.
The Plaza opened as a bingo club on 26th March 1970. Later it became an Apollo bingo club.
In March 2003 it opened as the Peelhouse Medical Plaza. The exterior remains unaltered.
David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk