Globe Theatre

157 High Street,
Stockton-on-Tees, TS18 1PL

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Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre opened on 16th December 1935, and is the third Globe cinema building on the site.

The first was a pre-war cinema of approx. 500 seats which was demolished in 1925 and replaced by the second Globe Picture House with 1,200 seats which in turn closed on 20th April 1935, and was completely demolished to make way for the existing Globe Theatre building which opened an amazing 8 months later.

This was a variety theatre and had no film programming until 1937 when it was bought by Associated British Cinema(ABC) - however a projection suite was part of the original design. ABC continued to present live shows on regular occasions amidst the film fare.

Opera, Ballet and an annual pantomime featured strongly together with touring variety, musicals, and latterly pop concerts.

The Globe Theatre was re-named ABC in 1967. It was closed on 15th June 1974.

A very short-lived attempt was then made to restore it as a theatre before bingo took over from 1978 to c.1996.

It has remained unused since then.

The Globe Theatre was designed by Percy L. Browne & Son of Newcastle Upon Tyne for brothers Charles and Alfred Lewis and was constructed by local firm Arthur McLeod Ltd. of Thornton on Tees. Fibrous plasterwork was by Messrs Webster Davidson & Co. Ltd. of Sunderland. The building cost a reported 75,000 pounds.

The imposing façade has four sets of double doors in the wide frontage with 10 large metal framed windows (by Messrs F Braby & Co. of Glasgow) on 1st and 2nd floor levels - five on each floor, grouped 1-3-1.

In-between the groupings are two squat towers with ornamental iron grills running up both levels. There is a further window at the top of each tower and between the towers is a 3rd floor housing the projection suite which windowless expanse once contained the simple lettering GLOBE.

The frontage is almost symmetrical - the left side has an extra small bay containing two small windows. There are three circular plaques between the 3 central windows the central one of which depicted comedy and tragedy. The whole is enlivened with fluted plaster typical of the period. A square canopy ran over the street from tower to tower.

Two shop units are incorporated, one on either side - at some point shortly before 1996 these were bricked in and the lower frontage tiled, the façade was also repainted at this point.

Apart from the removal of the lettering, the replacement of the canopy, the tiling and the addition of some railings on the roof the façade is unaltered and appears to be in good condition.

The doors give access to a small vestibule and four further pairs of doors - some with etched glass - lead into the main foyer and box office. This is actually, as at the Manchester Opera House, located in the circle void but is surprising large.

It is totally as built not having been spoiled by false ceilings. Good plasterwork of square ceiling recesses edged with fluted plaster but replacement of original lights by unattractive ‘Mecca’ fittings.

At one side is an office. Pleasing amount of natural light gives the area a rather more spacious feel than is actually warranted. Concrete stairs down in each outer corner lead to a small stalls foyer, doors give direct access to the lower circle and stairs up (above the stalls stair) lead to the rear circle foyer which is lit by the three central 2nd floor windows and is now converted into a bar.

The shop space is not incorporated into the theatre.

The auditorium is on two levels and seated, depending on the source 2,574, 2,429, 2,400 or 2,372. A huge stalls floor retains its original saucer rake and now has bingo tables instead of rows of seats. The circle is also vast with 19 rows of tip up chairs.

However the sightlines from both areas are outstandingly good as the circle is somewhat higher than average meaning that the entire proscenium is visible from the stalls back row.

The circle front is almost plain with a geometric cube design along the lower portion and is curved but not returned to the proscenium wall.

The expanse of wall is instead filled by an rectangular recess containing a fountain of light. Above this are two large bas relief panels depicting sight and sound - the right hand side one has been badly damaged by what looks like the insertion of a loudspeaker.

The proscenium is rectangular and has plaster strapwork together with concealed lighting still containing coloured bulbs at the upper levels, these were like the light fountains and the two deep rectangular ceiling recesses connected to a holophane lighting board which gently varied the colours when the house was lit.

The whole of the anti-proscenium is richly decorated with angular plasterwork and has the general feeling of say the Stockport Plaza (Grade II Listed). The ceiling over the front stalls is divided into sections and contains a large rectangular recess with concealed lighting.

A similar recess exists above the circle also with hidden lighting and containing the projection ports for film presentations. The plasterwork is again of an outstanding quality and is again, panel excepted, intact.

Indeed given that the building has been unused since 1996, it is in a very good state. Damp and with obvious signs of water penetration but no falls of or bulging plaster. <br><br>The original colour scheme (painted by Messrs Fred A Foster (Nottingham) Ltd of Mapperley) had a deep jade carpet with lighter seating and shades of green, fawn and gold on the walls and ceiling.

It currently sports a subdued ‘Mecca Bingo’ colour scheme - not as garish as some of their halls but similar style of colours and lights.

The stage is large, raked though not steeply and has adequate, but not generous, wing space. The get-in doors have been bricked up but were awkwardly 3 metres above stage level as the stalls are so extensively sunk below ground level.

The only false ceiling in the place is above the stage making examination of the grid impossible. It is likely that the safety curtain and machinery are intact above this as it would make no sense to strip them when so little else has been altered.

An orchestra pit has been covered over and replaced by bingo paraphernalia but otherwise the stage is unaltered with no access to the bingo players as has happened at so many other halls.

Dimensions from the British Theatre Directory state the proscenium width to be 49'2" with a height of 37' to 40', depth of stage 39'2", height of grid 60' with 26 counterweight and 13 hemp lines.

Descriptions of the building have often mentioned the pierrot and pierrette theme which looking at contemporary reports seem to have consisted of four large decorative mirrors edged in a deep green glass depicting pierrot, pierrette, columbine and harlequin. These were designed by Stanley M. Scott and manufactured and fitted by Reed Millican & Co. of Newcastle upon Tyne. There is now no trace of these - if they were situated in the auditorium, as is likely, they must have proved very distracting for films and could well therefore have been removed at an early stage.

This is an excellent example of its type which has been so very little altered as to be considered intact. The condition is good, a return to live use would not be prohibitive and with a good catchment population with no other large theatre nearer than a hour away (Sunderland Empire) should meet with success. It is unusual to see such a good example of a saucer raked floor.

– From Ian Grundy’s report which was instrumental in getting a Grade II Listed building status for the Globe in 2001.

In March 2010, it was announced that the Globe Theatre would be renovated for live theatre use, work began in early-2011, for a planned 2012 re-opening. Delays to the renovation set in, eventually Lottery funding was given to complete the restoration, which was still continuing in 2018 when further structural problems were found and completion was set for Spring 2020, but due to the Covis-19 Pandemic, this was delayed.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 36 comments)

terry on November 12, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Little reference is ever made to the fact that the Globe was a cinema first and foremost albeit with much theatrical use during its ownership by Associated British Cinemas.

Teesside Gazette 1963 renters ad uploaded.

terry on January 15, 2020 at 12:30 pm

Debenhams, the department store chain which bought the ABC back in the 1970’s with the aim to extend its Stockton outlet (but never did) today closed its Stockton on Tees branch.

Conversely, the ABC (Globe) will reopen in the Autumn of this year. Ironic indeed…….

terry on February 15, 2020 at 6:45 am

3 articles re progress thus far in 2020:–

terry on July 6, 2020 at 6:02 am

Below is an article regarding the ‘state of play’ on 10th April :–

terry on July 18, 2020 at 9:56 am

ATG Page here:–

Incorporated within is a ‘Stockton Globe Fly Through’ with a ‘watch here’ link to a video of some 3 minutes or so (via YouTube) and I have added what is thus far the only comment.

I understood that the same consultant engaged at Darlington Hippodrome had been assigned here and that his intention was to replicate as far as possible the original 1935 features and decor. The aforementioned were very impressive right until the very end of ABC operation with the house tabs being identical to the famous London Palladium ‘swags’ and the original art deco houselights still in situ, not having been replaced by the spray fittings which were to be found at most of the circuit. I assume that this same consultant’s services must have been dispensed with given that the result ,if the video is anything to go by, is a very austere looking venue indeed.

The CTA recently proclaimed that the finest surviving cinema interior in the North East is that of the former Blacks Regal/Odeon, Sunderland which, notwithstanding having been on Bingo for many years, retains many of its distinctive features (that is, of course, until Mecca either move to new premises or insert a false ceiling at circle level). I would once have asserted that the ABC Globe Stockton was of equal architectural merit but I am no longer of that opinion after viewing this……

Sorry to ATG and all involved with the ‘restoration’ but if this is the best that £26.7 million can achieve, forget it!

terry on August 11, 2020 at 9:31 am

Cost has risen to £27.9 million now :–

terry on August 11, 2020 at 9:35 am

It wouldn’t be so bad if the extra £1.2 million were to be spent on some decent decor instead of that ice cold, bland, devoid of atmosphere and warmth interior as seen in the video on the ATG site…..

terry on September 26, 2020 at 9:37 am

Paloma Faith to reopen the Globe:–

terry on September 28, 2020 at 4:42 pm

The Northern Echo is running a series of articles about the theatre. Part 1 below:–

I felt I had to add some corrections after the online article whilst putting other errors to one side in a bid to confine my comments to the Globe itself.

I am, however, still of the same opinion I have held for a long time i.e. that , at least as far as cinemas are concerned, journalism tends to be very lazy.

In this article, for example, it is said that the owners of the original Globe built the current structure as a huge provincial Variety Theatre following the rebuilding of the town’s Hippodrome as a cinema in 1932 after a disastrous fire. Yes,the Hippodrome was rebuilt in the Art Deco style but it retained full stage facilities and was often still used as a theatre. It was not unknown for both the ABC and the Hippodrome to present live shows concurrently, most notably during the Festive Season when big name pantomimes were presented at both venues.

Another point I chose not to pick up upon is the statement “1937, April 5. The Globe reopened as an ABC – an Associated British Cinema, a fully fledged cinema. But the cinema craze was also nearing the end of its run.”

This remark is beyond me, given that admissions in the UK would not peak until 9 years later in 1946 with 1,635 million. Even in the year 1937, 946 million is over 5 times the 176 million recorded in 2019. I shudder to think what the final number will be in 2020 and I do feel extremely sorry for those independent exhibitors who continue to fly the flag here in the UK notwithstanding the pressure from the ‘Mighty Multiplexes’.

terry on November 4, 2020 at 5:14 pm

New ‘fly through’ of how the theatre may appear when it reopens:-

This, I have to say, looks slightly better than the previous one although if ATG DO intend to fit replicas of the house tabs famously associated with the palatial Globe Theatre when ABC owned and ran it (identical to the London Palladium bullion carrying ‘swags’) they are certainly not shown………

There appears also to be a ‘mix up’ with the foyers as the one shown as the ‘main foyer’ is actually the ‘stalls foyer’ (subterranean) whilst the actual ‘main foyer’ (at street level and which doubles as the ‘front circle foyer’) is not shown. What we are led to believe is the ‘circle foyer’/bar is the ‘rear circle foyer’ which also served as the main bar area in ABC’s time.

The Paloma Faith performance which will reopen the venue sold out within three hours whilst I am unaware of how the advance is going for the second ATG booking, ‘Diversity’ (pardon my ignorance for not having heard of them). I believe that Jools Holland (presumably with his associates including Ruby Turner) will be another early attraction and that should be worth a visit.

The above presupposes that we shall have returned to some kind of normality by late next year. Here’s hoping!

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