Apollo Cinemas West End
19 Lower Regent Street,
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Located on an excellent site in Lower Regent Street, just south of Piccadilly Circus, the Plaza Theatre was built for and operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. It was designed by Frank T. Verity with plasterwork by Marc Henri, and opened on 1st March 1926, with Dorothy Gish in “Nell Gwyn”. It was sumptuously decorated with total seating for 1,896 divided between stalls, Royal circle (mezzanine) and balcony. There was a small stage and live acts were a feature of the programme – including the famous Plaza Tiller Girls. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 3Manual/15Ranks theatre organ (with piano attachment), and had a cafe.
The World Premiere of the David Lean film “Bridge On the River Kwai” starring Alec Guinness was held at the Plaza Theatre on 2nd October 1957. The Plaza Theatre lasted without alteration until 1967, when the lovely auditorium was gutted to form two cinemas, designed again by architect Frank T. Verity together with his (by then partner) Samuel Beverly. The Wurlitzer organ was removed and the 820-seat upper cinema was used as an extended balcony and the original projection box. The stalls, which extended into the stage area, became the 972-seat Paramount with the upper cinema still called the Plaza.
The Paramount used a new projection box constructed in the former Royal Circle area. The Plaza was renamed Universal in 1972, but old names linger and in 1975 they were both renamed Plaza 1 & 2.
Two years later, Plaza 1 (the old stalls) closed and was triplexed. The upstairs cinema now became Plaza 1 whilst the front stalls became Plaza 2 (378 seats), and the rear Plaza 3 & 4 (163 & 181 seats). All original decoration was lost.
Late in 2001, the complex closed and was gutted (yet again!). It reopened in September 2004 with retail space (Tesco supermarket) on the ground floor and five new cinemas located in the basement. The screens seat: (1)88, (2)59, (3)40, (4)168 and (5)126 Total seating in the five screens is for 481 plus 8 wheelchair spaces (2 in screens 1,2,4,5, none in screen 3). The upper floors of the building have been rebuilt internally for office space.
The exterior of the building is Listed Grade II as part of the Regent Street conservation area.
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