Opera House

4 Hales Street,
Coventry, CV1 1JD

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Opera House

The Royal Opera House was opened in 1889 with a performance of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Designed by the architectural firm Essex & Nicol, with well known theatre architect John Charles Phipps, the theatre had seating provided in orchestra stalls, dress circle and balcony levels and two boxes on each side of the proscenium. It hosted a wide range of theatrical productions from touring companies to a resident local repertory company to local amateur groups.

In 1898, the theatre was re-designed by noted theatre architect W.G.R. Sprague and it became known as the Opera House. In 1910, a projection box was built at the rear of the stage, and films were screened as well as live productions.

On 12th July 1938, a fire destroyed part of the stage, and during the rebuilding, a revolve was added to the stage facilities, and the facade of the theatre was modernized to the plans of architectural firm W.S. Hattrell & Partners. Live theatre came to an end in 1940 when a German incendiary bomb badly damaged the stage area.

The Opera House was taken over by Charlie Orr in 1941, and after repairs had been made, it re-opened as a cinema on 21st June 1941 with Ann Sheridan in “It All Came True”. The projection box was still located at the rear of the stage, making the Opera House, the only cinema in the city to have rear projection.

The Opera House was closed on 9th September 1961 with Steve Reeves in “The Last Days of Pompeii” and Steve McQueen in “The Great Saint Louis Bank Robbery”. The building had been sold to Sketchly Ltd. who demolished it to build a dry-cleaning business on the site. By 2008, an Indian restaurant and four shop units operate here.

Contributed by Ken Roe
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