Gaumont Darlington

132 Northgate,
Darlington, DN1

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terry on May 20, 2016 at 8:56 am

GB had no less than three cinemas in the relatively small town of Darlington, namely the Alhambra, the Court and the Arcade. The latter was the second largest of the CMA/Rank theatres with a capacity of 1300 and, for this reason alone, one would have thought that it eventually would have become the Gaumont. Possibly, however, even back in 1950 there were plans for the Arcade to become part of the circuit of Majestic Ballrooms and this duly came to pass in late 1956. The Alhambra, therefore, became the Gaumont in 1950 as the Court, regarded by locals as the best of the three, had been destroyed by fire in 1947.

I never visited the Gaumont whilst it was open but I once asked my Mother about it and she told me that it was a dingy old place and she had visited it one afternoon when there was a rather long breakdown during which time no one provided the audience with an explanation of what was going on; this is purely anecdotal, of course, but I see no reason why she would have made it up.

A short while before the Gaumont was demolished it was possible to simply go up the steps at the Front of House, enter the small foyer and venture into either the circle or stalls. Naturally, I did precisely this and, upon entering the circle, I could quite imagine that the cinema during its heyday as the Alhambra would have been quite impressive. Sadly, there are no photos of the building whilst open.

How on earth,however, there could ever have been rear projection I am at a total loss to understand for behind the narrow proscenium there would have been about six feet or so depth and no more………

On the Odeon side of CMA/Rank there were two outlets, namely the very nice Odeon (Majestic) and the Empire. The latter was on Quebec Street and closed in about 1960 or 1961. This, like the Gaumont, was shuttered and empty for many years until it too had its appointment with the wrecking ball in the early 1970’s.

Ironically, given that CMA/Rank once had five venues in Darlington, today (and probably not for much longer as the Vue complex is near completion) the only building to bear a name associated with that organisation is the former ABC which has sported the Odeon logo for a number of years now.

terry on May 13, 2016 at 1:02 pm

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