Astoria Theatre

157 Charing Cross Road,
London, WC2 8EN

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Ambak on May 4, 2016 at 11:06 am

The longest run at the Astoria was that first roadshow presentation, Around the World in Eighty Days, which ran for 106 weeks. West Side Story ran for 94 weeks with Paint Your Wagon next up at 79 weeks and then The Fall of the Roman Empire at 70 weeks. Nothing else ran for more than a year, next best being Half a Sixpence at 41 weeks. It is rather surprising that the Astoria’s fortunes declined so rapidly, especially in view of Rank’s expensive refurbishment in 1968. Even the Metropole, Victoria outlasted it.

cultman1 on February 17, 2015 at 11:53 am

Goodshow do you have any photos of the 70mm screen at the Astoria prior to Half a sixpence and when it became a Cinerama screen in 1969?

goodshow on February 7, 2015 at 8:52 am

Regarding the conversion prior to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the previous presentation at the Astoria was Half a Sixpence which ran from its premiere there in 1967 to 3 October 1968. Between then and December 17 the theatre was closed for refurbishment.

goodshow on February 7, 2015 at 8:41 am

Photo today of the Astoria’s presentation of How the West was Won in its screen version referred to above. Date of showing: from 26 November 1971 for the Christmas/New Year 1971/72 period.

Similar info of Paint Your Wagon and other presentations to follow in due course.

FanaticalAboutOdeon on February 6, 2015 at 9:55 am

Probably the Astoria’s longest run of all was “Paint Your Wagon” (blown up to 70mm.) in the early ‘seventies. Paramount “four-walled” the cinema in order to showcase their musical-western and it ran for over a year. For this, and the revival of a single-lens version “How The West Was Won”, a six-sided screen was used which, for me at least, was unsatisfactory. The reason for the unconventional image was the stalls level projection room. By this time, the proscenium had disappeared behind a large and deeply curved screen frame complete with semi-circular curtain track and further curtaining concealing the side walls. The screen was huge but, following its installation, in order for the wide beam to be accommodated, the already cut-away front of the balcony would have had to be even more cut away and, as this meant losing more top price seats, Rank refused to allow it. The resulting compromise resulted in a “carpet to ceiling” 70mm. image with the top corners chamfered and masked as such. I would have preferred a slightly smaller, rectangular image. 'Scope and wide screen product were able to be screened normally with a four-sided image.

As “Paint Your Wagon” was my first visit to the Astoria, I do not know when the “six-sided” image first appeared but my best guess would be that it followed Rank’s “zing” treatment which produced the plainer auditorium in time for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” to open there following its gala premiere at the Odeon, Leicester Square in December 1968.

Ambak on December 24, 2014 at 3:39 pm

The Astoria most certainly did not show “Around the World in 80 Days” in 70mm! 70 mil did not appear in the UK until “South Pacific” opened at the Dominion in 1958. 80 Days was shown at the Astoria in 34 (yes FOUR)mm. This was a process called Cinestage involving an anamorphic print with a 1.56:1 squeeze giving a screen ratio of 2.2:1 (like Todd AO). The reason for the 34mm print was British quota. All cinemas had to show 30% British films in any one year, which would have precluded a long roadshow run. However, the rules only applied to 35mm film so 1mm was shaved off the print! Apparently at least twice during the run Board of Trade inspectors visited to make sure they really were using a 34mm print. Later, of course, 70mm presentations were also exempt from quota which is how cinemas like the Astoria, Dominion, Metropole and others could present long runs of “foreign” films. Unfortunately, some British films (notably “Zulu” were denied a 70mm run in the West end so that the film could contribute to quota obligations.

HowardBHaas on April 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

that’s an article about new theater to be built on site.

CSWalczak on February 18, 2011 at 7:16 am

A picture and a premiere article from the Cinerama Topcities site which shows the Astoria during its one and only use as a Cinerama venue showing “Krakatoa, East of Java”: View link.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I too have always been intrigued (call it puzzled) by the ‘Astoria Theatre-123’ sign on the building. The original main auditorium was always one space, and the ballroom in the basement was always another single space.

CSWalczak on September 28, 2010 at 6:22 am

A number of photos of the Astoria taken over the last two decades posted here on CT and elsewhere –(such as this one: View link – show a small vertical sign attached to the extreme right hand side of the Tottenham Court Road frontage. The sign reads “Astoria Theatre” vertically and “123” horizontally at the bottom. The sign would appear to be over the entrance to the lower level where the former ballroom/Bang/Astoria 2/G-A-Y nightclub was. However, most recent and older London guides I have give 165 as the address for the Astoria 2. Is that “123” an address number or was there once a triplex theater on the lower level?

woody on October 24, 2009 at 10:42 am

a last ariel shot of the site now totally cleared and filled in

woody on October 10, 2009 at 3:16 pm

a few shots of the demolition at mid point
the balcony steppings
not sure what this part is or why its painted as a totem pole
part of the proscenium??
annoying plastic sheeting makes it so diffcult to see whats going on
messages from fans on the front pillars

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on August 15, 2009 at 11:43 am

The entrance to the Astoria Theatre in 1957 during the run of “Around the World in 80 Days”:

Matthew57 on July 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Woody, I would very much like to use one of your photos of the Astoria demolition, taken from Centrepoint, on my Arthur Lloyd site here:
View link

Please get in touch through my site if it is possible.


woody on July 18, 2009 at 1:02 am

ariel shots of the demolition taken from the 32nd floor of centrepoint

roof off and upper levels being removed

close up looking down into whats left of the auditorium
View link

older shots as the scaffolding went up
wonder if the sign was saved?
View link

JohnHolloway on July 12, 2009 at 7:50 pm

Another nail in the coffin of the disappearing heritage of Greater London. Next to go is Odeon West End. When will the city fathers learn?

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 10, 2009 at 1:00 am

Many more photographs old and recent, as well as some memorabilia here:
View link

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on April 3, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Beginning 1st April 2009, scaffold was being erected around the building to prepare for demolition.

smoothie on March 22, 2009 at 8:10 am

Ken,Mar 20,and everyone:– I have the original newspaper ads from 1969 with the Cinerama and Astoria logo. In fact regarding the Astoria logo for every film shown there since the early 1960’s. Roland Lataille has some of my selection to put up on the CineramaTopcities website, but would anyone be interested to a link of my own to share them directly. i would need advice as to whether Flickr or Photobucket(or whatever) would be the best medium, and also how to manage the technicalities. Im a bit of a IT saddo unfortunately.

woody on March 20, 2009 at 6:59 pm

so many memories, and such a wonderfully tacky way to enter a club
staircase entry to the ballroom (Astoria 2)
back corner showing some of the few remaining fragments of plasterwork

drguywalker on March 20, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Will we bemoan the demolition of another piece of history? Depends if the definition of ‘history’ extends beyond fibrous plaster and mock classical facades. When this was built it was modern, and like all modern buildings was not designed to last much longer than a generation (i.e. thirty odd years). How many music halls and live theatres went out of business when this gaudy monstrosity was built I wonder? How many people bemoaned the loss of history then? Except its not history is it – its nostalgia, which is selective, subjective and fails to recognise the most important thing about history which is ‘context’.

If we’re being nostalgic then I bemoan the loss of the modernist sixties conversion, the one with the Cinerama screen…how could they, it doesn’t make sense, they should be ashamed of themselves, outrageous they got rid of it, etc etc etc…

JohnHolloway on March 19, 2009 at 5:46 pm

A long time coming, but finally the end seems inevitable. I wonder if, in 20 years, we’ll bemoan the demolition of another piece of history? Such a shame the facade cannot be retained, although the 1970’s signage will “not” be missed.

woody on February 16, 2009 at 10:43 pm

some more farewell shots
fan messages on the box office pillars
View link
will the signage get saved?
falconberg mews – astoria stage door by night
photoshoped montage tribute to better times
View link