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The Kursaal opened on 24th March 1913 and was designed by architect Pascal Joseph Stienlet. It had live performances and concerts. The German name Kursaal became unpopular during World War I and it became the Playhouse. Films were shown the 1920’s and it was damaged by a serious fire in the late-1920’s.
The theatre was rebuilt to the plans of architectural firm Marshall & Tweedy, with the auditorium reversed and a raked floor installed. A fire-proof projection box was provided, although live shows were initially produced here. It opened as the Playhouse on 18th May 1931, with a seating capacity of 1,044. The proscenium was 30 feet wide, the stage 27 feet deep and there were six dressing rooms. Films were introduced from December 1931.
In 1949, it was taken over by the Newcastle based Essoldo Cinemas chain. Refurbished in the mid-1960’s it was taken over by the Classic Cinemas chain and was briefly re-named Classic Cinema, closing in June 1976.
Sold to Tyne & Wear Council to become a civic theatre. It was re-named Playhouse and live shows were produced on stage from 5th July 1976. On 9th August 1976, Lee Marvin in "Paint Your Wagon" was the first film to play at the Playhouse under the new management. It has remained in use as a mixed use live show and cinema building. In July 2008 a major renovation was begun, which was completed in 2009. The Playhouse now has 638 luxury seats.
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