The cinema was also known as the Odeon, Classic, Cannon, and Appolo.
On 2nd September 1939 the Plaza Cinema held a grand opening only to learn the outbreak World war II was upon them, meaning that all places of entertainment were closed until further notice.
The gentleman who was managing director of this cinema was also manager of 17 other cinemas and the chairman of the North Western Branch of the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association. So is it any wonder this cinema embodied the most modern ideas in cinema construction. The building was designed to be an imposing modern structure, with 1,100′ of tubed lighting in pastel shades of red, blue and green illuminated the outside along with the 45″ Staybrite steel letters.
For the main advertising of the current feature film a large poster sized frame with a still of the film was used and displayed either side of the entrance. The foyer had a 1930’s style paybox and kiosk.
The colours used for the flooring was of red and gold Terrazzo with brass railed, metal balustrade stairways which led to the first floor lounge and the balcony seats. The seats where covered in luxury red, with a patterned arm rest.
There were 450 balcony seats and 1,000 seats in the stalls, here the floor was raked and so gave all of the audience an uninterrupted view of the screen.
The projection room was equipped with the latest machines and the sound system by BTP. For the music lovers of this cinema they were well catered for with the installation of the Melotone Compton organ, this was the only cinema organ between Liverpool and Southport.
After the official opening of the Cinema the entire proceeds were donated to the hospital for x-ray equipment and better nursing accommodation.
The capacity audience put the worries of war behind them as they settled down to watch the performance. On the following day came the announcement of the war and the cinema closed for 2 weeks. It reopened on the18th September with The Count Of Monte Cristo. The performances were continuous of an evening and matinees of the afternoon.
1943 the cinema was in the hands of the Odeon circuit and the name Plaza remained until 1945.
The stage was brought into use for live entertainment during the 1940’s with famous artists to grace the stage such as Aurthur Askey, Tommy Handley and Hilda Baker. On Coronation day 11th June 1953 the doors opened early at 9.45am with a free admission to pensioners and the blind to hear a live broadcast of the ceremony.
The Odeon continued to be well attended despite local competition by the Regent and the Queens but in 1965 was forced to reduce the opening hours. Rank took over in 1967 and continued as a single screen and was converted shortly afterwards to a triple.
The cinema changed hands a couple of times throughout the 70’s and 80′ and in 1995 owned by Apollo Leisure Ltd and renamed the Apollo. After their ambitious £750,000 redesign which did not materialise and their decision to sell the property to a developer for demolition and replacement with DSS offices. A second campaign was set up to save the cinema by Janet Dunn, with various fund raising attempts to raise the £300,000 to purchase the site and the building by 1996. To which the council refused planning permission and so the Appolo announced closure 7th November.
The cinema reopened 18th July 1997 regaining it’s original name the Plaza after a massive clean up by volunteers and campaigners as they raced against time. Again the cinema was threatened with closure in 1999 because of the Leese and the purchase offer would end in 2000, which meant buy or vacate it. Only 3 days before deadline the situation was changed by Esmee Fairbairn Trust, a charitable organisation awarded the the cinema the sum of £66,000.
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The Queen’s Picture House was purpose -built on a site in the middle of a row of shops. The first of it’s kind in Waterloo/Seaforth area.
It had seating for an audience of 660 divided between the upstairs balcony and the stalls downstairs. The decoration was of a modest type with pilasters and carved plaster work in the auditorium, illuminated with large electrical fittings with multi-coloured, circular shades. The projection room was equipped with the latest Gaumont projectors, it was claimed the pictures were shown with beautiful clarity and steadiness.
It opened on 17th March 1913 with performances gathering a large crowd for both the matinees and the evenings. Admission prices were higher than average and as at many cinemas, ladies attending the matinees were served trays of tea and biscuits by the usherettes during the intermission. The Queens was the place to be seen during the silent film era as the elite of the district made it their rendezvous.
After the outbreak of the war in 1914, the latest war reports were made available during the performances, a service which was very much appreciated by the patrons. If a member of the audience saw a member of family or friend during the war days on the screen they could tell the manager in charge and they would receive a photo of the person.
1920 saw a change of ownership at the Queens and till the end of silent films with the last performance on 19th May 1930 showing Interference starring Evelyn Brent and William Powell.
It re-opened two days later 19th May 1930 with the talkies by Western Electric sound system with Smiling Eyes featuring Colleen Moore. Equipped with CinemaScope in 1955 the Queen’s screened some first runs of Twentieth Century Fox.
The Queens closed it’s doors for the final time on 22nd August 1959 with the general manager, RP Rutherford, who had worked there since he was a very young operator during the silent films, ran the very last reel.
I was an Usherette at the cinema for all my working life. I went out with the projectionist for three or four years. I had some very happy memories
Take a look at the Flickr album;