Kings Hall

44-45 Newgate Street,
Bishop Auckland, DL14

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The Kings Shortly After Closure

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This former hall was altered in 1902 and re-opened as the Kings Hall. It was altered again in 1914 and re-opened at Christmas 1914 as the Kings Cafe and Cinema. The building also contained a bookshop and tea-room. Seating was provided for 1,028 in stalls and circle levels. The proscenium was 24 feet wide and there was a stage for variety performances.

By 1937 the Kings Hall was listed with a seating capacity of 950. It was taken over by the Newcastle based Essoldo cinemas chain in 1947, and they closed the cinema in 1960. It was stripped out internally and became one of the first supermarkets in Bishop Auckland which opened in 1961. Later the building became the Kings Auction/Sales room, but it has since been demolished.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

terry on December 14, 2008 at 2:22 pm

It closed in 1961 and in 1966 the front of the premises (ie the arcade , cafe etc) was converted to a Broughs supermarket with most if not all of the auditorium behind being demolished; for years a side elevation remained with typical olde worlde cinema decor still on it.

I don’t know anything about the Kings Auction Room, but the last time I visited the town of my birth and Grammar School days (King James I School where a certain boy to become known as Stan Laurel had attended), in November 2004, the front of the Kings was still there with the original cafe windows etc (although minus the sandstone motifs at the top which were removed in 1966) and the entrance doors led to – guess what – a supermarket

terry on December 14, 2008 at 4:04 pm

This theatre was chosen as the venue for the 3D films which were all the rage in the mid 1950’s. The Kings' box office record was broken for all time with ‘The House of Wax'in 1953…….

terry on May 14, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I have uploaded a photo of the Kings taken in the late 1950’s whilst still open as a cinema/restaurant – as can be seen, the town was very busy in those days……

terry on July 19, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Photo of Newgate Street uploaded. If magnified Stan Laurel’s father’s theatre, the Eden, can be seen on the left and the Kings almost directly opposite on the right. Note the length of both buildings, in particular the Kings……

terry on October 19, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Two more photos uploaded.

terry on March 12, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Picture postcard of the extensive catering facilities of the Kings uploaded to photos section.

terry on March 21, 2016 at 10:23 am

Two images uploaded to photos section.

terry on April 21, 2016 at 1:54 pm

I have being trying for years to find out more about the Kings as it was the only Bishop Auckland cinema I never visited (it closed in either 1960 or 1961 when I was 5 or 6 years old).

I decided to post the following on ‘The History of Bishop Auckland’ website :–

“What was the Kings like inside???

It was was the only cinema in the town I never visited although I was taken into the cafe on at least one occasion by my Mum and Dad in the late 1950’s.

As a child I was always impressed by the facade (in fact this was the cafe, restaurant etc with an arcade at street level leading to the actual cinema which was set well back from Newgate Street). When the contractors were there knocking the place apart in 1966 I tried to peer inside but these attempts were always thwarted by Mum who was no doubt impatient to continue shopping!

Just what was the film viewing experience in the Kings like? It goes without saying that, being of 1914 vintage, it would not be in the same league as the 1938 built Majestic/Odeon which was wide and designed to offer the very best in cinema entertainment.

However, was the Kings at least the equal of its sister venues, the Hippodrome (later Essoldo) and the Eden Theatre? Or was it perhaps slightly better than the latter two?"

Unfortunately, the subscribers to the ‘History of Bishop Auckland’ website were unable to assist.

The Kings must have been fairly important in its time as all Warner Bros product played there and in the 1950’s quite a lot of Fox musicals such as ‘The King and I’ and ‘Carousel’ were shown during the CMA/ Fox dispute. It was also the one and only venue in the town equipped to play 3-D films and I understand that the house record there was achieved when ‘House of Wax’ was presented for, I believe, two weeks.

If, by the remotest possibility, any ‘regulars’ on this site know what a visit to the Kings was like together with a description of any architectural delights (or otherwise), whether it had tabs or festoons etc, it would be most appreciated……

Sixtieschick on April 22, 2016 at 7:20 am

As a contributor to the History of Bishop Auckland Facebook page, I was the person who commented I went to the other cinemas in the town rather than the Kings in my courting days. I see it would have been impossible as it had closed. As I am one of the older contributors, it is highly unlikely others remember details of the decor, but focus on the films they remembered as a child, or the cafe they remember being taken to, rather than the inside of a dark cinema. Although it may have been an elegant building once, it was not so in the sixties, and could not rival its competitors, and the top floor was removed because it was rotten. Unfortunately, an absentee landlord has not maintained what is left, and visitors who were investigating the possibility of renting part of the premises speak of widespread water ingress, damage by wildlife, and the fact it really seems unsafe. So there it is, you did not receive assistance in your quest because no one was able to help! I see you have contributed photos that are in our archives too, and there do not seem to be others available.

terry on April 22, 2016 at 1:13 pm

When the Kings closed the building remained empty for a few years prior to its acquisition by Broughs the supermarket chain in 1966. After redevelopment only the front section (the catering block, basically) was retained minus the upper half of the top storey. The auditorium was demolished leaving a delivery area behind the supermarket. Essoldo , the owners of the Kings, originally closed the Eden Theatre in 1960, having decided that they no longer needed three sites in a relatively small town. Very soon afterwards they had a change of heart when they reopened the Eden Theatre and closed the Kings.

The rationale behind this, I understand, was that the theatre bar at the Eden was rather more lucrative than the catering outlets at the Kings and it was not desirable to operate the bar at the Eden within a shuttered building. The Eden, of course, whilst even older than the Kings, had a deep fully equipped stage which could occasionally be brought into use.

The alterations referred to at the Kings all took place long after the place had shown its very last film and my quest for information about the place goes back to my childhood days when I used to look up in wonderment at the abandoned building and wished that I could venture inside to see what it was like.

Having tried to find interior shots of the place without success and having not been able to obtain more comprehensive information from people who were around when the Kings was still open I have decided that it is time to ‘give up’…….

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