32 New Briggate,
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The Grand Assembly Rooms was part of the complex which contained the Grand Theatre and Opera House, built in 1877 and 1888. The Grand Theatre and Opera House originally had a seating capacity of 2,600 and the adjacent Grand Assembly Rooms, located on the first and second floors above street level shops, had a seating capacity of 1,100 in stalls and circle levels, and was used as a concert hall and for meetings. The complex was designed by architects George Corson and James Robertson Watson of Leeds.
Films were shown in the Grand Assembly Rooms from 1903. From 1906 the building was leased to New Century Pictures and they held a re-opening on 15th April 1907 with ‘New Century Talking & Singing Pictures’ using Gaumont’s Chronophone. From 1913 it was known as the Assembly Rooms Cinema.
The building was renovated in 1923 and given a totally new Classical style cinema interior. There was a very ornate ceiling, alcoves containing urns and lamps and a decorative curved circle as well as a new projection box. New Century Pictures were taken over by Denman/Gaumont British Theatres from March 1928 and the Assembly Rooms Cinema became part of the Gaumont British Theatres circuit, although operated for several years by their subsidiary Provincial Cinematograph Theatres Ltd. The seating capacity was reduced to 900.
The Assembly Rooms Cinema was closed by Gaumont British Theatres on 5th April 1958, and it was soon taken over by independent operator Harry Buxton. It now had a reduced seating capacity of 812.
In around August 1958 it was taken over by the Star Cinemas chain, who were based in Leeds. They re-named it Plaza Cinema from 25th August 1958. The Plaza continued as a major city centre cinema, playing many independent and ‘B’ films, as well as Continental ‘art’ films, until it was closed on 14th February 1985.
It became a studio space for rehearsals and exhibitions, but by 2007, had fallen into disuse. Plans were proposed in 2007 to totally remove the 1923 designed auditorium decoration and to create a new mezzanine floor level in the auditorium, converting to building into other uses for the adjoining Grand Theatre and Opera House. These plans were opposed by the Cinema Theatre Association, the Twentieth Century Society and the Theatres Trust, as the building had been designated a Grade II* Listed building by English Heritage. Sadly, the interior was removed in early-2008, and work is underway to ‘restore’ the auditorium to its 1880’s appearance.
The adjacent Grand Theatre and Opera House continues today as a 1,550 seat live theatre and is a Grade II* Listed building.
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