Grand Opera House
2-4 Great Victoria Street,
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Previously operated by: Rank Organisation
Architects: Frank Matcham
Firms: Frank Matcham & Company
Styles: East Indian
Beautiful and of national importance, this Frank Matcham designed theater was used as a cinema for over 22 years, from 1949 to 1972, despite being almost totally unsuited to the task!
It opened December 23, 1895 and had a chequered career - sometimes very successful - sometimes in iminent danger of closure.
Then in 1949 Imperial Cinema and Cinematograph Theatres took a controlling interest on the Opera House and films became the order of the day - although amateurs and a panto sometimes took back the stage.
Taken over by Rank Organisation in 1960 and for a time it was under threat of becoming a bowling alley! However it was deemed unsuitable and films continued under Rank until they closed and boarded up the building in 1972.
A distinctly Indian theme is evident in the auditorium with elephants' heads and intricate plasterwork on the fronts of the two balconies. Delightful range of ‘onion domed’ boxes either side of the proscenium arch.
Aided by a Grade A Listed building status, awarded in 1974 (the first Belfast building to be so designated) the Opera House survived and in 1975 the long process of restoration began. Re-opening night took place on 15 September 1980.
Despite serious damage from a bomb in 1991 and again in May 1993, which was swiftly repaired, the Grand Opera House continues very successfully and is a symbol of a rejeuvenating city.
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