Focus Cinema

10 Mile End Road,
South Shields, NE33 1TA

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Focus Cinema

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Originally opened as the Royal Assemby Hall some film shows were held in the building at the turn of the 20th century. It had two entrances, one on Ocean Road, the other on Mile End Road. Both these entrances led to the auditorium at the rear and were connected to it via small bridges over a narrow alley.

It opened as a full time cinema known as the Scala Cinema on 4th October 1920, after alterations and re-modeling had been carried out by architect Pascal J. Stienlet. The Scala Cinema was taken over by General Theatre Corporation(GTC) in March 1928. In May 1928, they were taken over by Gaumont British Theatres chain. One of the facades was altered in 1938.

It was re-named Gaumont from 12th March 1951, and the Ocean Road entrance was closed in 1960, and was converted into retail use. The Rank Organisation disposed of the Gaumont to the Brent Walker chain of cinemas from 5th October 1975 and it was re-named Focus Cinema.

Taken over by an independent, it was re-named Regal Cinema. Converted into a 3-screen cinema from 24th May 1980, it now had seating capacities for 329, 74 and 74. The two small screens were video presentations. This was a short lived venture as the Regal Cinema closed on 26th June 1982.

The building became a bingo club and amusement centre from 19th June 1984. It has since been converted into a nightclub, going through several owners and name changes; The Venue, Masons, Coyote Wild and Vibe.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on May 30, 2013 at 4:18 am

Hi Gogsy In 1996 I had a minor stroke names I get mixed up.. We dealt with a Peter.. I think his nickname was kipper (Behind his back) plus Mangers and Projectionist at sites We supplied Focus. Appolo..Hutchinson.. Star.. Classic.. Even did Emergency repairs for Rank at Birmingham.. I got given a hugh amount of Pictures when I was younger.. and met the Big names in Cinema.. They where always very helpful.. when I praised the cinemas That they had built.. There lies tales.. Hmm.. These people that drop names get on my nerves. as I said to the Queen the other Day :o)

Gogsy
Gogsy on June 11, 2013 at 9:48 am

Sounds like you had a good time Mike,just visited The Tyneside Cinema last week and we had a tour around the place,great to be back into a working Cinema again!

DBage
DBage on September 21, 2013 at 5:34 am

Hi Mike Blakemore, been reading with interest your connection to local cinemas and believe that the Peter you might be recollecting at The ABC South Shields will have been Peter Lish, he was manager at that site until the cinema transferred to the control of Brent Walker. I used to work at the former Focus/Regal cinema also in Shields and then at the Savoy in Ocean Road. I also worked briefly at The Customs House, Warners at Bury Manchester and for a lengthy period at The Wallaw Cinema in Blyth, where I worked for Peter, sadly I believe that Peter died at a young age, although someone might be able to confirm this detail.

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on September 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Hi DBage.. My Basic stamping ground was the Midland Zone of ABC… Then in my Independant Days I was based in Birmingham.. I was also involved with a Cinema Equipment Supplier That covered most on the country… Inc Brent Walker Cinema… :o)

DBage
DBage on September 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Hello Mike, some nice cinemas in Birmingham, although been a while since I visited, the last film I saw at Cineworld in the city centre was Super 8, so probably about 2 years ago or so, but a great experience, good size screen and quality sound. Brent Walker was a decent company to work for and to this day, I can still maintain that my preferred cinema is the Gaumont/Focus123/Regal cinema in South Shields, had a great atmosphere and I worked with some of the nicest people I have ever know, Gogsy is still a friend of mine after 20+yrs since we parted company as colleagues. Thanks for reply, David.

terry
terry on September 23, 2013 at 7:12 am

Peter Lish left the ABC South Shields in July 1980 and I (who had followed him into ABC Sunderland as A/M) took over as Acting Manager, subsequently Manager until I handed over the theatre to Peter MacRae, CEO of Brent Walkers Cinema Division, in May 1981. I knew Peter MacRae from his ABC days when he was Manager at ABC Bradford and it was quite a pleasant hand over.

I remember there was a rather surly Internal Auditor who had managed the old Grimsby Odeon, a venue which Brent Walker very quickly disposed of. I suspect that his dour demeanour may have been exacerbated by Peter MacRae’s statement to his District Engineer, a pleasant, avuncular chap whose name I do not recall,viz:

“I told you that you would find this as an ABC Theatre to be in better condition than the Rank places we took over!”

I felt like saying that they must have been in one hell of a state because very little money had been spent on the ABC South Shields for years – see my article about the Savoy (ABC) re the reasons for this.

Peter did indeed die at an early age a few years ago and I am now the only remaining member of the team at the Haymarket Newcastle where I first met him in the early 1970’s………..

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on September 23, 2013 at 7:27 am

Hmm Peter MacRae’s nickname was Kipper.. I witnesed the disposal and Transfer of The Focus Skem..

terry
terry on September 24, 2013 at 6:39 am

Peter Lish (as opposed to Peter MacRae) died a few years ago – just in case there is any confusion. I trust that Peter MacRae is still alive and well.

DBage
DBage on September 25, 2013 at 3:19 am

Hello Terry, I had forgotten that you had taken over the management of the ABC South Shields after Peter Lish had left. I had thought I was right in thinking Peter has died but pleased you confirmed this, although not that Peter had died. Did you also manage the ABC Westgate Road?, I believe I can recall seeing you FOH. I had forgotten about Peter MacRae and didn’t know of his nickname.I didn’t have much dealing with him during my time of employment with Brent Walker.

terry
terry on January 31, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Hello David

I have only just stumbled upon your response; in the past ‘Cinema Treasures’,via the linked e-mail address, would advise me of a reply to a comment only for it to be merely an additional observation added by someone. Ironically,in this instance,they did not bother………..

Anyway, I did indeed manage the ABC Westgate Road, having transferred to Newcastle upon Tyne (initially at the Haymarket Theatre)from the ABC Chester which I managed subsequent to ABC’s disposal of South Shields. I did for a brief period look after the two large Newcastle venues simultaneously.

I would not enjoy working in film exhibition these days as I detest the multiplex format. They may be comfortable and have good sound with digital stereo but are otherwise soulless. In relation to the sound I perhaps should substitute ‘loud’ for ‘good’ and utilise the expression ‘over the top’ to describe the digital stereo. The loudness is often necessary to compensate for bad audience behaviour in the unattended auditoria whilst the digital stereo is perpetual and unrelenting.

I recall with affection the 70mm venues which ABC had in most major cities. 6 track magnetic stereo was used in these situations. The concave screens would vary between 50' and 90' in width whilst the principle of ‘less is more’ was the order of the day in the case of the stereophonic sound. By that I mean that the stereo effect would only be used in scenes where it would best enhance the image on the screen; it was indeed spectacular used in this way.

A handful of wonderful venues exist today (mainly independents) whereby the atmospheric ambiance of the old time cinemas is combined with modern seating, configuration and amenities. The Plaza Stockport, Rex Berkhamstead and the Odeon Leicester Square (probably the last Odeon theatre to use house and screen tabs in addition to retaining its Compton Organ) would perhaps best exemplify the types of theatres to which I refer.

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