Gaumont Southsea

Bradford Junction,
Southsea, PO5 1

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Gaumont Southsea

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The Plaza Cinema is located in Southsea, an adjacent town to Portsmouth and is at a major intersection of Bradford Junction and Victoria Road North. It opened on Sauturday 29th September 1928 with a special invited audience viewing the film ""Baby Mine" starring Karl Dane and "The Elephants Elbows". On Monday 1st October, it opened to the public with Alice Terry in "Garden of Allah". It was built for and operated by independent operator Frank J. Spickernell.

It was designed by the local Portsmouth architectural firm Henry J. Dyer & Son and had a splendid Neo-Classical style facade. Set on the corner, the entrance had doric pillars and on the first floor was an open balcony with more doric pillars.

The entrance hall foyer was decorated in a Tudor style, with fireplaces and sunken carpets. There was a large waiting area which could acommodate the entire capacity of the cinema, waiting to enter for the next performance. Upstairs the circle foyer was decorated in an Adam style.

Inside the auditorium seating was provided for 1,331 in the stalls and 384 in the circle. The interior decoration was of an Atmosphric style with an Italianate setting. The plastered walls had painted panels, on the left wall were views of an Italian garden, viewed through an open collonade and on the right wall was views of the Grand Canal, Venice, again viewed through an open collonade. There were clever lighting effects to simulate sunlight and moonlight and there were cloud effects on the ceiling.

On 28th January 1929, the Plaza Cinema became the first in the Portsmouth area to screen a talking picture, and "The Singing Fool" with Al Jolson packed the house for several weeks.

From 10th February 1931 the Plaza was taken over by Gaumont British Theatres/Associated Provincial Picture Houses(APPT) and it continued to prosper for many years.

It was re-named Gaumont from 8th May 1950 and was closed by the Rank Organisation on 30th January 1965. In February 1965 it was converted into a Top Rank Bingo Club. In 1995 it became a Gala Bingo Club which closed in early-1997.

The building remained empty and unused. A fire ocurred in September 1999 which badly damaged the building. It is thought to have been started by children playing in the near derelict building. Chandeliers and fittings had been stolen by burglars in previous months. The building had been purchased by Portsmouth’s Muslim community who were hoping to use it as a community centre. I believe the building has now been rehabited as the Jami Mosque.

The former Plaza/Gaumont was designated a Grade II Listed building by English Heritage in 1995.

Contributed by Ken Roe
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