128 School Lane,
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Architects: Peter Cummings
Styles: Art Deco
The Capitol Cinema was situated on the corner of Parrs Wood Road and School Lane in Didsbury – a suburb of Greater Manchester. A ‘super cinema’ designed by Peter Cummings, it opened on 21 May 1931 and was operated by the J.F. Emery Circuit.. However just eleven months later (on 25 April 1932) it was gutted by fire, leaving only the walls and entrance standing. Cummings rebuilt the cinema in a more ornate style and it re-opened on 16 August 1933. It was equipped with a Christie 4Manual/10Ranks organ, and lighting in the auditorium was via an elaborate Holophane system. It was taken over by the Union Cinemas chain in 1936.
Associated British Cinemas(ABC) took control of the cinema in 1937 and the final film show was on 14 January 1956. In May of that year the building reopened as ABC’s television studios for the Northern region (they broadcast during the weekend only). There were three studios: the largest in the stalls, a news studio in the former restaurant on the first floor and a small continuity area. Film editing and telecine was done in the roof-top former projection area.
The building was supposedly haunted by the ghost of an actor who had passed away during a live broadcast of ABC’s “Armchair Theatre”!
Film of the opening night of the TV studios can be found on the British Pathe website (search for ‘ABC tv’): http://www.britishpathe.com/
When ABC lost the TV contract for the region, the Capitol building passed to Manchester Polytechnic, which used it as the base for its theatre studies and BA (hons) Design For Media film and television production course. Julie Walters was one of the drama students. During this time the stalls area was used as a theatre and the first floor studio for TV production. The circle was boxed in as a separate cinema (this may have dated from the ABC days).
It seemed that the building was in a safe pair hands. But it wasn’t so… The Polytechnic moved away in 1998 and the following year the building was demolished to make way for a characterless apartment block known as ‘Capitol Court’.
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