13 Castle Hill,
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Located in Dudley, West Midlands, on Castle Hill, close to the entrance of Dudley Zoo. The Opera House was opened in September 1899, and was designed by architect A. Ramsell. By the early-1900’s films were part of the variety programme. By the summer of 1910, it was being advertised as the Opera House Picture Palace and Electric Theatre, when films were screened in the afternoons.
Around 1920, it was taken over by Benjamin Kennedy and was again in use as a live theatre, although in 1930 it was equipped to screen sound films. Ben Kennedy now also operated the Plaza Cinema next door, which he demolished and rebuilt in 1936 to the plans of Archibald Hurley Robinson. The Opera House was destroyed by a fire in November 1936 (the ‘new’ Plaza Cinema next door was saved from destruction).
Ben Kennedy employed noted cinema architect Archibald Hurley Robinson again, to build a new theatre on the site. The Art Deco style Hippodrome Theatre seated 1,621 and had a 45 feet wide proscenium. It was equipped to screen films, but there is currently no record of any being shown in what was dubbed the ‘Showplace of the West Midlands’, being a major touring theatre for variety shows and pantomimes. In the 1960’s it became a bingo club and nightclub. Gala Bingo were its last occupants, and the building closed in around 2010. There are plans to demolish it, which are being fought by locals who want the theatre use reinstated.
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