Vue Piccadilly

19 Lower Regent Street,
London, SW1Y 4LR

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Plaza Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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. A Gala European Premiere of “Darling” was held on 16th September 1965. A Gala Premiere of “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” was held at the Plaza Theatre on 13th January 1966. The World Premiere of “Alfie” was held at the Plaza Theatre on 24th March 1966. The Plaza Theatre lasted without alteration until 27th September 1967 when it closed with Craig Stevens in “Gunn”. The the lovely Italian Renaissance style auditorium was gutted to form two cinemas, designed by Samuel Beverly of architecural firm Verity & Beverley with David Hicks as colour consultant to reflect the tones and conditions of the 1960’s. The Wurlitzer organ was removed and sold to Leonard Bartholomew. The 820-seat upper cinema was used as an extended balcony and the original projection box, retaining the name Plaza. The stalls, which extended into the stage area, became the 972-seat Paramount. They re-opened 28th July 1968.

The Paramount used a new projection box constructed in the former Royal Circle area. The Plaza was renamed Universal from 25th May 1972, but old names linger and from 15th May 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 as the Apollo Cinemas West End 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. It was re-named Vue Piccadilly in early 2013.

The exterior of the building is Listed Grade II as part of the Regent Street conservation area.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 30 comments)

woody
woody on May 16, 2009 at 6:26 am

a photo of screen 2 with its pop-art wall panels as it was being stripped out, the seat backs have all gone, just the seat cushions left
http://www.flickr.com/photos/woody1969/3535004297/
and the box office as it was being dismantled, still with a few bulbs left working
http://www.flickr.com/photos/woody1969/3535824888/

madorganplayer
madorganplayer on January 29, 2013 at 4:49 am

Ive worked at the Apollo a few times installing plasma screens.It was odd knowing that i was working where the stalls once were.Ive attached a couple of pictures of the Plaza WurliTzer-one in the pit at the Plaza and the other at its first home in Ascot after being removed.The organ had an odd start to life.,the chambers were split either side of the proscenium.The solo organ and the 32Diaphone disturbed nearby offices.The Solo organ was then moved up into the roof speaking out from above the proscenium which made it sound rather odd.The Diaphones were disconnected and it is believed left in the theatre in the roof space when the organ was removed.My guess is that they were broken up when the building was converted.Im presuming that the roof was taken off?

SethLewis
SethLewis on February 8, 2014 at 11:12 am

Now known as the Vue Picadilly…a bit off the beaten track of the West End screens…currently programming day date mass market pictures along the rest of the West End…One would think that it would have a better chance if it programmed art house fare in line with the Odeon Covent Garden or Panton Street.

Interesting to see if this survives or not…the only thing that might work in the space is a restaurant

davepring
davepring on May 13, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Since being rebranded as Vue this cinema has gone downhill.The plasma info screens no longer work.The foyer is desolate with tatty signs directing you down to the cinemas..shameful.

SethLewis
SethLewis on December 10, 2016 at 11:09 am

You go to Paris and have a great range of international film programming…All the US pictures and a well-curated mix of local and international product…The Odeon Panton Street does some good sub-run programming but is seriously out of date…This site just needs good programming to survive (a la the old Swiss Centre cinema)

madorganplayer
madorganplayer on December 23, 2016 at 12:22 pm

davepring, I was working at the Apollo installing and updating the plasma a few years ago.Those to the windows and above the staircase are extremely difficult to get at because of the glass staircase and it doesnt surprise me that they are no longer working.The company i was working at no longer work for Vue.Vue are cheapskates and penny pinching and try to do things for themselves and balls it up in the process.At least Apollo under Paul Gregg and later his missus Anita tried to keep things working.

ritzman
ritzman on April 17, 2017 at 7:34 am

Photo taken during the farewell organ concert 17/09/1967 Added at photo tab

CF100
CF100 on September 8, 2017 at 7:46 pm

madorganplayer: In response to your question about whether the roof was “taken off,” it certainly seems to be the case.

This can be seen in Google Earth (desktop application) by turning on “Historical Imagery” and setting the date to 2003.

For convenience, and since Google allow limited use of these images on third-party sites providing attribution is included, I have exported the relevant image from Google Earth and uploaded to the Photos section.

Documents associated with the planning application for the 2000s reconstruction are available. (N.B. Some modifications were made to these proposals in subsequent applications.)

The roof plan shows new glazed roof areas, and most of the remaining part of the roof is a “flat roof to plant enclosure.”

Looking at the section plans, the plant rooms and central section of glazed roofing extend above the original building. Beneath them, there are offices (fourth floor) which also extend above the original building.

Given the extensiveness of the reconstruction, requiring the facades/dome to be “proped up,” I’m afraid that the chances of organ parts remaining up there are, I’d suggest, zero.

CF100
CF100 on September 8, 2017 at 7:48 pm

Photos of plasterwork remnants can be seen in documents submitted in relation to the following planning applications:

http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=0206506ADLBC — see “PROPOSALS FOR THE SALVAGE & REUSE OF EXISTING DOORS / PLASTERWORK” – PDF page numbers 18-20. Note that this part of the document is excerpted from an earlier 1998 survey. Also within this document are details of a later survey (PDF p4), and on PDF p21-22 are plans from the 1998 survey showing locations where plasterwork and other auditorium decorative remnants were found.

http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=I70H4KRP59000 – see “PHOTOS” – which are of a couple of removed sections of plasterwork.

http://idoxpa.westminster.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=IGFO5IRPR1000 – see “PLASTERWORK SCHEDULE” – details of the four sections of plasterwork removed and proposed restoration work (white paint only!) – and “PHOTO” – showing the proposed wall display of these sections.

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