Colmore Circus, Steelhouse Lane,
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Previously operated by: Gaumont-British-Picture Corp., Ltd., Rank Organisation
Architects: William T. Benslyn
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Gaumont Palace Theatre
- ABC Coleshill Street
- High Street Electric Theatre
- News Theatre
- Kings Hall Picture House
- Grand Theatre
News About This Theater
- Mar 2, 2010 — Happy 45th, "The Sound Of Music"
The Gaumont Palace Theatre opened on 9th February 1931 with Ronald Colman in “Raffles” & William Collier Jr. in “A Royal Romance”. It was the first cinema built purely by Gaumont British Theatres (rather than being a takeover). It was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/10Rank organ which was opened by organist Leslie James. It was re-named Gaumont in 1937. It was closed for a month in July/August 1942 due to bomb damage.
In 1961 it was closed for modernisation of the auditorium. Gone were the Art Deco style decorative features and in came a huge curtained auditorium. From 14th October 1963 it was converted into a Cinerama theatre, opening with “Cinerama Holiday”. Over two million people saw the 70mm roadshow presentation of Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music” at the Gaumont when a 168 week run began in 1965, and ended in July 1968. Closed for repairs and redecoration in August 1973, the Birmingham Gaumont boasted the largest screen in Europe during this time.
Situated in front of the offices of the Birmingham Post and Mail, the cinema suffered in the 1980’s when UK cinema grosses experienced a precipitous drop.
The Gaumont closed on 29th October 1983 with Graham Chapman in “Yellowbeard”, and the building then stood empty and becoming derelict until it was demolished in 1986 to make way for new offices for The Weslyan Insurance Company, which built its new head offices on the site.
The façade of the building was dismantled brick by brick and was put into storage with the intention to rebuild it on a new site. Unfortunately, the rise in popularity of multiplexes most likely portends that this will probably never happen.
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Recent comments (view all 35 comments)
I saw ‘Close Encounters’ at the Gaumont on its first release, and ‘boy’ was that screen big!!
For a 12 year old kid just getting into cinema, this cinema could not be matched. I remember seeing ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ 8 times on that huge screen. It had an exclusive presentation there before going on general release in the Midlands. Great memories.
I have load a picture of the original Stage… Hope enjoy
June 15th 1980 is a day long-remembered. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK premiered it’s run here. Two months before, I saw THE BLACK HOLE on opening day here as well and was amongst the audience blown away by the EMPIRE teaser trailer. I also saw STAR WARS / EMPIRE double bill, DRAGONSLAYER and ROBIN HOOD on reissue. A big-screen sadly missed now, but one of my favourite places of all time. ROCKY II replaced THE BLACK HOLE after three weeks.
I used to go regularly in the id 1950s as a child, Wonderful memories of a great theatre.
The organ was remmoved to the abbey hall Abingdon. Now it will be installed by the Penistone cinema organ trust in Barnsley. It will be added to several other cinema organs, this makinng it the largest Compon theatre organ in the world
The conversion to three strip Cinerama was an expensive waste of money. ABC had already converted the ABC Bristol Road and had access to the best film in the process (How the West Was Won). The Gaumont opened with Cinerama Holiday, played it for nine weeks and then closed again for ten days while the 3 strip kit was ripped out and replaced with 70mm for the opening of It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World on December 26th, which at least could be advertised as “in Cinerama” (albeit single lens). In June 1964 when The Fall of the Roman Empire opened, the Cinerama tag had to be dropped.
I saw saw ALIEN in this cinema in my home town of Birmingham UK in September of 1979 on the first day of key city release. In those days new movies officially opened on a Sunday In the UK (strange!) and I was there for the first screening in the afternoon. The queue literally went round the whole building. Couldn’t get into that screening so had to wait in line for 2 hrs for the next one. Once in, the atmosphere was electric And the tension fantastic. The jump moments were really effective with a full 2000 seat capacity crowd. This was once the largest screen (Not auditorium) in Europe.. the opening was really effective and that music was so evocative of a serious horror film as opposed to a slasher flick. I also saw The Black Hole, The Empire Strikes Back here around the same time.
The Gaumont’s Cinerama screen, whilst having the largest sheet size in the UK (84' x 34' = 2,856 square feet) did not have the greatest width which was that at the ABC Coliseum Glasgow , namely 90'. The screen depth at Glasgow, however, was only 30' giving it only 2,700 square feet overall.
Grand opening ad posted.