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The return to cinema use lasted for less than a year. It reopened in October 1970 with the United Artists double bill, ‘For A Few Dollars More’ and ‘A Fistful Of Dollars’ and the cinema opened initially only on Thursday – Sunday. After a couple or so months it started operating 7 days per week which suggested to me, at least, that the returns must have been quite healthy. Obviously, such was not the case as The Avenue closed for the very last time at the end of the Summer holidays in 1971 following a two week run of ‘The Sound Of Music’.
Photo uploaded of The Avenue in happier days; I believe that it was taken on Coronation Day, 1953….
Photo of Newgate Street uploaded. If magnified Stan Laurel’s father’s theatre, the Eden, can be seen on the left and the Kings almost directly opposite on the right. Note the length of both buildings, in particular the Kings……
Photo of Newgate Street uploaded. If magnified Stan Laurel’s father’s theatre, the Eden can be seen on the left and the Kings almost directly opposite on the right. Note the length of both buildings, in particular the Kings……
Photo of Front Of House uploaded; I guess that it was taken in the 1930’s.
Whilst awaiting other photos of this once highly prestigious venue which I shall in turn upload, I did happen to come across a certain novelty pic which I have added to the relevant section here.
I was not at the Newcastle ABC on its last day of operation as I had foolishly already transferred to Darlington and that shower, Cannon, saw to it that I was unable to attend the farewell party held at Newcastle on the final day of operation.
The theatre staff obviously held Cannon in as high esteem as I did and they baked a cake replete with logo to demonstrate this admiration……..
I was informed that during the afternoon of the very last day of operation a Company Executive (whose name I shall not mention but he was the one behind the plot to stop me from attending the ‘send off’), paid a visit and was shown the item which was to be the centerpiece of the evening buffet and,like Queen Victoria, he was not amused………
One would have thought that perhaps he may have been, being an ex ABC person, but as we were to find out, those ABC executives who survived the initial cull following the ‘big bang, were to become more ‘Cannonised’ than that outfit’s original personnel. Rather like the film exhibitors’ equivalent of Catholic Converts, I always considered ……………
Original Odeon Front Of House taken in 1949 whilst presenting ‘Down To The Sea In Ships’. As with most cinema exteriors (in fact most buildings) during the post war austerity period it would appear that the combination of the war years and the fossil fuel economy have taken their toll……
Regal pic uploaded to photos section.
Photo uploaded of Gerald Shaw at the Compton organ; he was later to become the resident organist of the Odeon Leicester Square.
Various interior shots have been uploaded to the ‘photos’ section.
Two shots of the Front Stalls uploaded. This cinema seemed to be ‘jinxed’ going by what the ‘old timers’ of ABC used to tell me eg the boiler house blowing up and the roof blowing off (Consett is on top of a very high hill).
Anyway, it burned down in 1966 and the story goes that the Manager, George Clark, rang ABC’s Managing Director, Jack Goodlatte in the middle of the night to tell him the bad news only to be asked the question, “Has it burned RIGHT down, Mr Clark?” and, upon being advised that such was the case, the MD was overjoyed…..
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.