19 Lower Regent Street,
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Vue Cinemas UK (Official)
Operated by: Vue
Firms: Verity and Beverley
Functions: Movies (First Run)
Styles: Italian Renaissance
Previous Names: Plaza Theatre, Paramount, Universal, Plaza 1-4, Apollo Cinemas West End
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.
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