Showing 1 - 25 of 109 comments
This theatre was never equipped to show Cinerama (or Todd AO/70mm) and the nearest venue to present films in 70mm format was the ABC (former Elite) Middlesbough; this was the case from its modernisation in 1964 until tripling in 1974 when the large screen and the 70mm equipment were removed. The new Odeon Stockton was also thus equipped from its opening in 1968 until closure in 1981.
The nearest Cinerama was the Queens Newcastle although the ‘3 strip’ format lasted only very briefly before 70mm was adopted and blown up onto the Cinerama screen. Other 70mm venues were the Essoldo Newcastle (later ABC) and the Pavilion Newcastle which generally played the product deemed either not good enough for the Queens or which the latter was unable to play owing to long term commitments as was the case with ‘The Sound Of Music’ which played there for nearly three years.
Re this venue an opening photo of the (now disused) Front Stalls has been uploaded.
I often wondered what this place looked like whilst still a cinema and I have to say that its Front Of House was very pleasant according to this photo. Thank you to the person who has uploaded it!
Photo of ABC 1 from front crossover uploaded.The gold seats had just been reupholstered in red and standard ABC ‘Calendar'carpet laid when this was taken. In the name of 'hygiene’ no longer was there deep pile Axminster between the rows but red lino. Loads of legroom still though!
3 photos of the auditorium have been uploaded. Sadly, these were taken in the cleaners lights the day following closure and the theatre looks far from at its best as a consequence……
I have read various comments about this theatre over the years and they often allude to it being not particularly large whilst having no type of stereophonic sound. The latter observation is certainly true but this often applied to Circuit Houses particularly where they had Roadshow or other venues elsewhere in a city where 70mm and 6 track magnetic stereo were promoted features. So, in defence of the old Haymarket, I would say the following……….
The promoters of the original 1280 capacity cinema (ABC later extended the building and increased the capacity to 2000) claimed that it could easily have seated 1700 and this I am prepared to believe as the stepping in the Dress Circle (10 rows) was very generous and the legroom was better than that in the Royal Circle seating sections of both the Paramount/Odeon and Essoldo cinemas. The Rear Circle, which was added by ABC and consisted of a further 10 rows, was less generously spaced as was invariably the case in 1930’s cinemas.
The ABC Haymarket was made a compulsory purchase by neighbouring Newcastle University in the 1950’s and leased back to ABC always on short term leaseholds.
ABC were not prepared to lavish large capital investments in the rather old fashioned building with the ‘Sword of Damocles’ ever present.
When Douglas Parkin transferred to the Haymarket Newcastle as Manager from the Ritz Wigan in 1960 , Associated British Cinemas told him that he would not be there for long as there were plans to build a new luxury stadium style cinema in the city (rather like ABC Sheffield) to where he and the staff would transfer; this did not come to fruition.
The old Haymarket carried on for years on this basis although it always took a fortune at the box office and ranked as one of the biggest moneymakers in the UK and Film Distributors vied to play their latest releases there. In its heyday this was the house which played all MGM, Warner Bros and ABPC’s (Associated British Picture Corporation based at Elstree Studios and the Film Production arm of ABC) top films.
By 1974 Newcastle University were becoming even more intransigent with the terms of the cinema’s lease and ABC were operating on ‘six month permits’ – a situation which was most unsatisfactory. At this time Classic Cinemas, who operated the former Essoldo Westgate Road, found themselves in dire financial difficulties and offered the Westgate Road luxury twin cinema to ABC who purchased it.
As soon as Newcastle University learned about ABC’s now secure foothold in the city they ‘climbed down’ and offered ABC a five year lease on the Haymarket which ABC accepted and they then fully refurbished the old cinema and ran it in conjunction with Westgate Road ; the lease was subsequently renewed for a further five years during which period it was still well maintained.
In order of seating capacity Newcastle cinemas ranked as follows:–
1) Odeon 2602
2) Essoldo 2109
3) Haymarket 2002
4) Gaumont 1870
5) Pavilion 1585
6) Queens 1403
7) Stoll 1370
8) Olympia 1100
9) Gaiety 875
11) Tatler 437
12) Bijou News Theatre (now the Tyneside) 412
The above capacities are those of each venue at its largest capacity wise; they were all modified over the years and most notably reductions occurred when CinemaScope was introduced and seats were removed from the front stalls owing to the greater screen width encroaching on the original sight lines.
So the Haymarket at 2000 plus seats was hardly small, was it?
The cinemas listed are those in the city centre as opposed to the suburbs such as Byker , Gosforth and Jesmond – however the Haymarket was still larger than any venues in those locations.
The source of the seating capacities is ‘Cinemas Of Newcastle’ by Frank Manders published by Newcastle City Libraries. It is worth noting that in cases like the Stoll and Pavilion , even more drastic seating losses occurred following closures of upper circles (the ‘Gods’)….
Here is what the planned replacement of the Haymarket Theatre would have looked like in the early 1960’s:–
Dixon Scott, the entrepreneur responsible for the Haymarket (in its original form), the Bijou News Theatre (now the Tyneside), the Princes North Shields (later Gaumont and subsequently Odeon)and, I believe, the Regal Jarrow, was the great uncle of director brothers Ridley Scott and Tony Scott.
Two more ‘Roadshow’ photos uploaded – more to follow…..
If only, Empire_fan ! Nice thought anyway……..
2 auditorium shots uploaded as it was when ABC briefly ran it.
Interior shot of the original auditorium has been added to the photos section.
I have uploaded a photo of ABC 1 (former stalls).
The 600 seats of screen 1 seen here occupied a space large enough for over 900 conventional cinema seats of the time. These, in fact, are from the stalls of the ABC Blackpool which were surplus to requirements following the sad tripling of that venue resulting in the cessation of live shows.
The original Essoldo seats were even more comfortable as they were complete with headrests. ABC sent them back to Essoldo Furnishings in Glasgow as they were becoming ever more cost conscious and the original seats had to be maintained by Essoldo and not ABC’s in house seating, carpeting and upholstery team.
You have presented your credentials very assertively: good for you!
It is amazing how our words can be distorted, for example it was put to me that I was under the misapprehension that multiplexes had led to a change in fire and safety regulations. The regulations were not changed (at least back then); they were simply flouted with impunity. It was also said that I blamed the said multiplexes for bad audience behaviour when I actually said that the less than minimal staffing levels therein happen to facilitate the kind of misconduct referred to.
I also gave the impression that I blame modern technology for the lack of presenation standards when in fact I expressed my dismay that today’s state of the art technology does not go hand in hand with the presentation that you and I knew and expected.
I am also sure that your cinemas would have been well maintained as indeed were the ones in Newcastle where I spent a number of happy years as Manager & Licensee.
When I moved house nearly four years ago I gave many items, including photos of cinemas I managed, to an old Independent Circuit CEO friend of mine who went on to own and operate two of his own before retiring; what you have said about film renters he would back up. He did refuse to play films at times and he was threatened on more than one occasion with being deprived of further product but he stood his ground and won. Once multiplexes sprung up in the vicinity he no longer had this leeway and the renters conveniently forgot that he had provided them with outlets to their product in many North Eastern locations from where the circuits had retreated.
Re the photos, I shall ask him to scan some of the ones of ABC Westgate Road Newcastle (listed on here as Cannon) which we ran in conjunction with the Art Deco Haymarket Theatre and I shall upload them to the page devoted to it.
Hi Mike – as you say sometimes there was no choice for the public and I remember Warner Bros ‘concern’ about having nowhere to exhibit their product as I was Manager at Newcastle ABC when they decided to come along. It had a capacity of 973 within 2 auditoria of 600 and 373 seats; the building had once seated 2200. It had 70mm and 6 track mag in both auditoria, ‘Sensurround’, Dolby Stereo and a Licensed Bar whilst the 25 feet deep stage was retained in the larger stalls auditorium for Personal Appearances at Regional Premieres etc. A more comfortable theatre I have never experienced either as a paying customer or as an employee in the Industry.
We were just recovering (Cannon having acquired us did not help) from AMC’s onslaught on Tyneside when WB decided to land in the city which also had a huge Odeon with auditoria ranging from 1228 seats down to 150. There was also the Art House, The Tyneside with a large auditorium of 390 seats and a ‘mini’ of 120 seats within adjacent property. There were still one or 2 decent sized and well run suburban independents. So Newcastle really was in need of outlets for WB to screen its product, wasn’t it?
It is also strange that over the years we had to really ‘watch our backs’ regarding manning levels in case of a visit by the Fire Dept and yet when these multiplexes appeared they seemed to be able to disregard every Home Office Regulation and Local Authority Licensing Stipulation relating to staff – as they do to this very day.
The few people I know who still visit a cinema occasionally – invariably a multiplex because there is nothing else – tell me that they cannot hear the film because of rowdy behaviour in the auditorium and that, upon trying to alert staff re the matter, there are simply none to find. Consequently, it is a very long time before they decide to pay another visit – and then only to find that the same circumstances prevail. As an illustration, people having loud and protracted conversations on mobile phones with their friends in another part of the auditorium seems to be one of the most popular activities.
Re WB in Newcastle ; this closed in 2004 having been bought by the University Of Northumbria as a site for a new campus. My Brother In Law is a Programme leader/Senior Lecturer there and he said to me at the time -albeit with a sardonic tone in his voice – that I would be delighted to learn that 90 percent of the building materials of the Warner had been recycled in the construction of the new University and I replied, using the same amount of irony, that I was most elated to learn this!
I know some retired independent cinema operators who did precisely that and managed to get away with it as, having the only venue in a particular locality, the big boys, UIP, Col-War etc had no option but to play their product there. As you say, once the multiplexes came along that was no longer an option as people defected to them anyway regardless of whether they were an improvement on existing theatres; they often were but in many instances were certainly not.
No – but I would have told UIP what to do with it…..
Yes, it was ironic that I made my comment on this particular page, Loew’s being the Parent Company of MGM and responsible for the magnificent reconstruction of the Empire as ‘The Showplace of the Nation’ – oops…….
Whilst American Production Companies had a presence in the West End as well as Paramount’s foray into certain provincial cities which was very short lived, it could hardly compare with the 1980’s ‘invasion’…
Had UK cinemas NOT been badly subdivided but instead been re seated to the standards of current alternative cinemas (Odyssey St Albans etc), IE one third of original capacity (entailing complete restepping of circles) with all the luxury elements now expected whilst, of course, incorporating all the latest technical innovations, the cinema going experience would be much more enjoyable than the current one.
Cinemas used to be in vibrant town and city centres, had imposing entrances, lush foyers, marvellous decor and brilliant standards of presentation (including the use of house and screen curtains) which all added to the cinema ‘experience’ and anticipation…….
This has all largely gone and when I hear about laser projection and IMAX screens etc etc I wonder what is so great about it all as, at the end of the day, there is no magic to celebrate – it is all purely functional and rather flat.
By this, I certainly do not wish to imply that we should not have all the latest technical advancements merely that it would be nice if they were available alongside the ‘old fashioned trimmings’ and ambience I refer to. Perhaps, for once, a leaf should be taken from the book of the USA and that current day operators take a look at Grauman’s Chinese and what has been successfully achieved there.
I can hear people saying “Move with the times!” but this is my opinion, nevertheless……….
I have also uploaded a Panto Programme from 1960 in the photos section.
I have uploaded a photo of the ABC Westgate Road taken during its heyday as the Essoldo. As seen, the building was at its most impressive in the evening when all the neon lighting provided a great effect.
I have uploaded a watercolour of the Hippodrome purportedly showing ‘Ben Hur’. Actually, I saw ‘Ben Hur’ at Bishop Auckland Hippodrome (Essoldo) on a Friday Evening in early 1962 and this was followed by a visit 3 nights later to see ‘King Of Kings’ at nearby Shildon Hippodrome, the subject of the painting. Biblical Epics were all the rage back then!
I frequently carried out relief duties at this most impressive theatre and, on a couple of occasions, took over for Jim Thompson’s fortnight’s holiday.
Whilst I always got on well with the opposition in any town where I worked, Halifax was really brilliant with everyone at the Odeon and Astra being very friendly, particularly at the former.
I drew the short straw to be the Relief on the very day that the contractors moved in to start the tripling process and I tried to sneak in on that morning to avoid being waylaid by anyone. However, as my feet touched the first of the circle stairs to go up to the office I was collared by the Head Cleaner who had a list of problems concerning the invaders of the building…….
I have to say that no time was wasted by the contractors, as by the end of my second day (the cinema was open evenings only in the circle), all the stalls seats had been removed plus all the HF Pride auditorium chandeliers and spray fittings and one of the statuettes in the splay alcoves had been knocked over onto the Front Stalls (now bare) floorboards and broken – the vandals!
Mecca are one of the few remaining arms of the Leisure Division of the mighty Rank Organisation who, upon acquiring Mecca Bingo, dropped ‘Top Rank’ in favour of ‘Mecca’ ; a very odd decision in my opinion but the powers that be considered the ‘Mecca’ brand to be more readily identifiable with the ‘Nation’s Pastime’ (not one of mine, I hasten to add).
I am sure that if the box is still accessible and safe to enter that they would allow someone to take photos although Ken Roe will be in a better position to say for certain.
The same goes for you in the health, happiness and wisdom departments!
It was ‘Confessions Of A Pop Performer’ as I was Relief Manager at the ABC Halifax that week and , mindful that it was the Odeon’s last ever programme, I recall typing it on ‘ABC Opposition Report Form No. 6 ’ (they were a bureaucratic lot). When I returned to base theatre, ABC Wigan, it was also playing there as, having no Odeon in the town, we played both releases.
The ‘Confessions’ films were ‘much of a muchness’, Danny, so it is not too surprising that you have mixed them up.The first one, ‘Window Cleaner’ I remember playing at ABC Wigan the previous year (the Court which played Rank releases having recently closed) and it was the only time I saw the 2280 seats all occupied!
‘Pop Performer’ did fairly well and the line that got the most sustained laughter, I recall, was Rita Webb asking Robin Askwith (referring to her daughter) if he had seen “her Fanny” and his reply about seeing ‘The Ghost Of Frankenstein’ being bad enough…………
When two further sequels appeared, namely ‘Driving Instructor’ and ‘Holiday Camp’ I was by then in locations where there was an Odeon but I think that the returns were only fair. However, being cheaply made, I am sure that the producers (and Columbia as distributor) made a decent net profit on the four ventures.
I have uploaded a photo of the Kings taken in the late 1950’s whilst still open as a cinema/restaurant – as can be seen, the town was very busy in those days……
I have uploaded a photo of the ‘double front’ of the Essoldo/Hippodrome. The main sign was (as seen) actually on the side elevation which could be seen from Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland’s main thoroughfare. The original name ‘Hippodrome’ remains in terracotta below the large arched window on the Front Of House. The exterior is looking somewhat dejected on this photograph and was spruced up a short while after it was taken.
The Essoldo Company was rather prone to leaving former names on their cinemas and other examples in the North East were at Stockton (Hippodrome/Essoldo)and Gateshead (Empire/Essoldo).
I quite agree that the circuits should ‘take a leaf out of the book’ of venues such as those mentioned but the USA influenced consortia who run the likes of Odeon would, no doubt, consider themselves to be above doing this and will therefore continue to disregard good taste………..