ABC Haymarket Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1

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Black & White auditorium shot taken from stage on day after closure

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Originally opened as the Haymarket Cinema with Tom Walls in “Just Smith” on 21st December 1933. A project of Dixon Scott (who also commissioned the News Theatre on Pilgrim Street, now operating as the Tyneside Cinema), this was originally a comfortable city centre cinema of modest capacity (1,280 seats) which played second-run product. Its architectural style was Egyptian and was inspired by a Cairo cinema. The booking policy was to play the best of what had been relinquished by the city’s main cinemas at that time, namely the Paramount(later Odeon) Odeon, Queens, Pavilion, Westgate (later Gaumont)and Stoll Picture Theatre (now Tyne Theatre and Opera House).

The owners claimed that the building was quite capable of seating 1,700 people, but that they wanted the best in comfort and legroom for their patrons…

Associated British Cinemas(ABC) acquired the property from Dixon Scott in 1936 and extended its size considerably by lengthening the building. The alterations included the transfer of the projection suite from the circle wedge to above the rear circle. The enlarged capacity was 2,013 and the new booking policy was to play first run M-G-M, Warner Bros and, naturally, Associated British Pictures.

Although the ABC Haymarket was always a very busy cinema, it was to become disadvantaged by being compulsorily purchased by Newcastle University in the early 1950’s and leased back on relatively short leasehold periods to ABC subsequently. Newcastle University was never in a hurry to utilise the site to extend their premises but, by the same token, were not prepared to relinquish ownership of the building either.

Consequently, ABC were never prepared to inject large capital sums into the building by widening the relatively narrow proscenium during the wide screen era of the 1950’s and 1960’s or by subdivision during the conversion era of the 1970’s and 1980’s. For this reason (and to retain a foothold in Newcastle) ABC, by now part of EMI, acquired the twinned Essoldo Cinema on Westgate Road in 1974. ABC programmed this very nice (and up to date) twin in conjunction with the Haymarket until the latter’s closure on 20th September 1984, the final film was Prince in “Purple Rain”.

A rather sad end for what had once ranked as one of ABC’s busiest and most profitable cinemas in Great Britain. It was demolished in March 1985.

Contributed by Terry Charnock

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

terry on August 6, 2002 at 6:59 am

Since compiling the above profile I have found copies of the opening souvenir brochures for the Haymarket both in its original form in 1933 and the super enlarged version of 1936.

The architects on both occasions were Dixon and Bell of Newcastle Upon Tyne and the opening presentation at the theatre’s re-launch on August 31st 1936 was M-G-M’s ‘A NIGHT AT THE OPERA’ starring The Marx Brothers.

There is a page near the back of the 1936 brochure with the following announcement:–

“Do you know that Associated British Cinemas broadcast a programme of latest film news every week from the following stations:–

Poste Parisiene……….Every Saturday Night at 11 p.m.

Radio Normandy………Every Monday Morning at 9.30 a.m.

This Broadcast is of particular interest to Haymarket Patrons as it gives you information about some of the films which will be coming to this theatre"

Yes, I can just imagine that most citizens of Newcastle Upon Tyne would have been avid listeners of the aforementioned FRENCH radio stations…

3rictaylor on February 15, 2009 at 5:51 am

during the early 1980s i was fortunate enough to know one of the projectionist, at the haymarket cinema, in newcastle. (i wont give out his name as i am no longer in touch)
i was around 16 years old and loved the cinema and to be given the chance to help out in the projection/winding room etc, was a dream come true.i can still smell the carbon-arc rods burnig away and the clatter of the twin peerless projectors.i can remember standing on the stage, behind the screen(it was like a giant tea-bag, full of holes)and being dwarfed by the huge speaker system. the sound boomed out through the hole-filled screen and out to the audience(no stereo here?)i wandered how the image was able to be reflected back, given that there were more holes than screen?.i was also showed the remnants of the original projection room(prior to the upper circle being built). inside the cieling area of the stalls, the chared remains of a large fire(from many years ago)was still in evidence and the position of the projection box could still be imagined(very spooky but wonderfully romantic, at the same time)
i remember the transition from 20 minute single reels to the more modern, cake-stand formular(no need for change overs/cue dots/rewinding reels by hand etc)
and the refiting of powerful light bulbs, instead of hazardous carbon-arc rods. the new system came along with the re-introduction of 3-D movies, somewhere between 1982-3, friday the 13th, jaws-3 and the rest of the short lived, though effective, polarized-stereo movies.i lost touch with my friend,through some personal circumstances and didnt get back the newcastle until after the cinemas closure, and was amazed to find it demolished in a matter of months. i have fond memories of all of the cinemas in and around newcastle…the essoldo, queens, odeon, studios 1-4, apollo, but i will alway hold the haymarket as my favourite. aside from a few trinkets that i saved from the winding room floor, i never got any photos of the wonderful interior or the exterior and have found it nearly impossible to track any down. if anyone can help(for my own personal use)i would be very grateful…thank you.

NThomson on September 25, 2010 at 1:58 pm

HI, I took a few slides before closure, when Paul Beck kindly let me into the building to photograph it…..
Did you know Paul at all ??
I knew Tony Hartley too….
I worked at the Queens and Odeon as projectionist *


erict on June 29, 2015 at 12:55 pm

does anybody have any photos taken inside the cinema, I was a friend of Toney Hartley and spent a lot of time there in the early 1980s. any photos, any quality would be fantastic…thanks

terry on July 2, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Dixon Scott, the entrepreneur responsible for the Haymarket (in its original form), the Bijou News Theatre (now the Tyneside), the Princes North Shields (later Gaumont and subsequently Odeon)and, I believe, the Regal Jarrow, was the great uncle of director brothers Ridley Scott and Tony Scott.

terry on July 2, 2015 at 2:13 pm

I have read various comments about this theatre over the years and they often allude to it being not particularly large whilst having no type of stereophonic sound. The latter observation is certainly true but this often applied to Circuit Houses particularly where they had Roadshow or other venues elsewhere in a city where 70mm and 6 track magnetic stereo were promoted features. So, in defence of the old Haymarket, I would say the following……….

The promoters of the original 1280 capacity cinema (ABC later extended the building and increased the capacity to 2000) claimed that it could easily have seated 1700 and this I am prepared to believe as the stepping in the Dress Circle (10 rows) was very generous and the legroom was better than that in the Royal Circle seating sections of both the Paramount/Odeon and Essoldo cinemas. The Rear Circle, which was added by ABC and consisted of a further 10 rows, was less generously spaced as was invariably the case in 1930’s cinemas.

The ABC Haymarket was made a compulsory purchase by neighbouring Newcastle University in the 1950’s and leased back to ABC always on short term leaseholds.

ABC were not prepared to lavish large capital investments in the rather old fashioned building with the ‘Sword of Damocles’ ever present.

When Douglas Parkin transferred to the Haymarket Newcastle as Manager from the Ritz Wigan in 1960 , Associated British Cinemas told him that he would not be there for long as there were plans to build a new luxury stadium style cinema in the city (rather like ABC Sheffield) to where he and the staff would transfer; this did not come to fruition.

The old Haymarket carried on for years on this basis although it always took a fortune at the box office and ranked as one of the biggest moneymakers in the UK and Film Distributors vied to play their latest releases there. In its heyday this was the house which played all MGM, Warner Bros and ABPC’s (Associated British Picture Corporation based at Elstree Studios and the Film Production arm of ABC) top films.

By 1974 Newcastle University were becoming even more intransigent with the terms of the cinema’s lease and ABC were operating on ‘six month permits’ – a situation which was most unsatisfactory. At this time Classic Cinemas, who operated the former Essoldo Westgate Road, found themselves in dire financial difficulties and offered the Westgate Road luxury twin cinema to ABC who purchased it.

As soon as Newcastle University learned about ABC’s now secure foothold in the city they ‘climbed down’ and offered ABC a five year lease on the Haymarket which ABC accepted and they then fully refurbished the old cinema and ran it in conjunction with Westgate Road ; the lease was subsequently renewed for a further five years during which period it was still well maintained.

In order of seating capacity Newcastle cinemas ranked as follows:–

1) Odeon 2602 2) Essoldo 2109 3) Haymarket 2002 4) Gaumont 1870 5) Pavilion 1585 6) Queens 1403 7) Stoll 1370 8) Olympia 1100 9) Gaiety 875 10)Grainger 775 11) Tatler 437 12) Bijou News Theatre (now the Tyneside) 412

The above capacities are those of each venue at its largest capacity wise; they were all modified over the years and most notably reductions occurred when CinemaScope was introduced and seats were removed from the front stalls owing to the greater screen width encroaching on the original sight lines.

So the Haymarket at 2000 plus seats was hardly small, was it?

The cinemas listed are those in the city centre as opposed to the suburbs such as Byker , Gosforth and Jesmond – however the Haymarket was still larger than any venues in those locations.

The source of the seating capacities is ‘Cinemas Of Newcastle’ by Frank Manders published by Newcastle City Libraries. It is worth noting that in cases like the Stoll and Pavilion , even more drastic seating losses occurred following closures of upper circles (the ‘Gods’)….

Here is what the planned replacement of the Haymarket Theatre would have looked like in the early 1960’s:–…

terry on July 2, 2015 at 2:36 pm

3 photos of the auditorium have been uploaded. Sadly, these were taken in the cleaners lights the day following closure and the theatre looks far from at its best as a consequence……

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