The Capitol Theatre was situated on the Haymarket in London, just up the road from Her Majesty's Theatre, the Theatre Royal, and the later Carlton Theatre, and took up the entire block between Jermain Street and St. James's Market. The Theatre's small main entrance was on the corner of the Haymarket and Jermain Street. The Theatre was the first design by the now well known cinema architect Andrew Mather, who would go on to design the Odeon, Leicester Square with Harry Weedon, the Odeon, Camberwell with Keith P. Roberts, and many other Odeon Cinemas for Oscar Deutsch. Andrew Mather was also responsible for the 1938 redecoration of the Theatre Royal, Chatham when it was renamed the Hippodrome, and for designing the recently demolished Leicester Square Theatre.
The Capitol Theatre was built for Sir Walter Gibbons who originally leased it to the Clavering Brothers for its opening on the 11th of February 1925 with a showing of the Film 'The Miracle of the Wolves'. It was later leased to the General Theatres Corporation who would be taken over by Gaumont British Theatres in 1928.
The Capitol Theatre seated 1,550 people in its opulent Neo-Classical style auditorium consisting of Stalls, Circle, and Upper Circle. Even the Stalls were upstairs however, so people had to climb the stairs to the first floor before entering the stalls, and even more stairs for the circles of course, although lifts were also provided. The Lighting for the Theatre was designed by the Illuminating Engineering Department of the General Electric Company, Limited, details of which can be seen below.
Right - The Auditorium of the Capitol Theatre, Haymarket - From The Cinema News and Property Gazette, February 19th, 1925, see enlargement and information below.
When the Capitol Theatre opened it was equipped with a Norman & Beard 4Manual/34stops Organ which was played by George Pattman for its opening. However, the Organ was later replaced by a Compton 3Manual/9Rank Theatre Organ in 1930. The Theatre was also equipped with a 30 foot deep Stage, twenty Dressing Rooms for artistes, two Ballrooms, and several Tea Rooms as part of its original construction.
Above - An Advertisement for 'Bulman's Screens' as fitted in the Capitol Theatre, Haymarket - From a 'Bulman Cinema Screen Co.' Brochure.
The Capitol Theatre was home to the first British 'Talkie' Film on the 28th of July 1929 when it premiered Alfred Hitchcock's 'Blackmail' which had a very successful run at the Theatre for several months. However, the Theatre was to have quite a short life in this form and by 1935 it was already being reconstructed, see below.
Gaumont British Theatres completely reconstructed the Capitol Theatre in 1935, they gutted the auditorium and then built a new Cinema with Stalls in the former Kit Kat Restaurant, originally situated in the basement of the Theatre, with a Circle on Ground Level. A new entrance was placed in the centre of the building where the Restaurant entrance had formerly been. At the same time the upper floors of the original Theatre were converted into offices.
Right - The Auditorium of the former Capitol Theatre, Haymarket - From The Cinema News and Property Gazette, February 19th, 1925, see enlargement and information below.
The new Cinema was designed by William Edward Trent in the Art Deco Style, with concealed lighting, and decorative panels and sculptured nude figures by Sigmund Pillitzer. A new Compton Organ was installed for the new Gaumont Theatre which opened on the 4th of February 1937 with the Royal Premier of the Film 'The Great Barrier'.
The new Gaumont Theatre was never that successful and it was eventually closed on the 10th of June 1959 for further rebuilding, this time by the Rank Organisation, who again gutted the building and then created a small 600 seat Odeon Cinema in the basement, designed by the architect Leslie C. Norton, and a new Office Building was then constructed above the Cinema, which is still there today, see image below.
Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Odeon, Haymarket and Office Building above, which was a reconstruction of the former Gaumont Theatre and built on the site of the even earlier Capitol Theatre, Haymarket in 1959 - Click to Interact
The new Cinema opened as the Odeon Haymarket on the 4th of June 1962 with the Film 'Barabbas' which ran there for 6 months, and then the Cinema continued in operation until January 2000, despite being closed for refurbishment briefly in 1999. The Cinema then remained closed for a number of years but was finally gutted and stripped out, and that's how it remains to this day, just a shell of a Cinema in the basement of what once was the magnificent Capitol Theatre.
There is more information and many images of the former Capitol Theatre from The Cinema News and Property Gazette of February the 19th 1925 below.
Some of the above information was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
From The Cinema News and Property Gazette, February 19th, 1925
Above - The Capitol Theatre, Haymarket - From The Cinema News and Property Gazette, February 19th, 1925
In London's latest super-cinema - the Capitol Theatre, situated in Haymarket - designed by the well-known architect, Andrew Mather, 30, John Street, W.C., every consideration has been given to making the building attractive, and to provide maximum comfort for its patrons; to this end the aid of electricity for lighting and power purposes has been invoked with a considerable measure of success.
The exterior lighting of the Capitol Theatre is extensive. Surmounting the magnificent building (shown above) is an immense glass tower; this is illuminated at night time with Osram vacuum and gas-filled lamps. It is very prominent, and can be seen from many directions at considerable distances.
Immediately below the tower are fixed four bronze lanterns; these contain high-wattage Osram gas-filled Lamps. Symmetrically spaced as they are, round the base of the tower, these illuminated lanterns are very attractive.
As a pleasing contrast to this type of lighting unit, a number of fittings, surmounted by flambeaux glass shades containing high-wattage Osram gas-filled lamps, are erected at the base of the tower, and on the top of the theatre at the extreme left. These, viewed from a distance, create an impression of the old-time brazier.
On the front and sides of the theatre are fitted a number of massive bracket lanterns. Some of these are fixed in such positions as to form part of the symmetrical scheme with the lanterns previously referred to; other lanterns are spaced round the sides of the theatre at equidistant points, thus harmonising with the architectural features of the building.
On the front of the building the name of the theatre, CAPITOL, is displayed in daytime through the medium of box-type letters, the interior of each box is painted red and is almost covered with a ruby-coloured, non-transparent material, a space being left between the edge of the material and the letter edges. Each box contains a number of Osram sign-type lamps; when these are illuminated at night time the name of the theatre is to be seen outlined in what appears to be tubes of ruby-coloured light.
The result of flood-lighting the front of the Capitol Theatre is very effective. Twelve G.E.C. flood-lights, equipped with 500-watt Osram round-bulb projector type lamps are fitted under the canopy over the entrance to the theatre. These are specially mounted to project beams of light through the top of the canopy at correct angles over the entire front of the theatre; the title panels under the canopy are illuminated with Osram lamps fitted upon special battens.
Above - The Main Entrance of the Capitol Theatre, Haymarket - From The Cinema News and Property Gazette, February 19th, 1925.
The main entrance hall to the theatre is here illustrated (shown above). This is illuminated by means of a large number of Osram lamps. These are of the vacuum pear-shaped type of tinted (varnished) amber. The lamps are mounted on specially constructed framework to ensure even illumination of the glass panels in the ornamental ceiling fixture.
The booking-hall, reached by the stairs from the main entrance, is illuminated by two ceiling fixtures, similar in design to the one in the main entrance hall; these, however, are of smaller diameter than that in the main entrance hall, and are equipped with Osram lamps. The stairs leading to the booking-hall are illuminated with bracket fittings and Osram gas-filled lamps in suitable shades, while on the balustrade at the top of the stairs are fitted a number of these lamps in glass shades of the flambeaux type.
It is the interior of the theatre where the charm of colour is so pronounced. Here the decorative scheme of the interior is in silver and grey, the upholstering being in purple; this scheme lends itself very readily to the decorative lighting effects which are arranged throughout the whole of the theatre in four colours - purple, blue, red, and white.
Above - The Stalls of the Capitol Theatre, Haymarket - From The Cinema News and Property Gazette, February 19th, 1925
The stalls (shown above) are illuminated by one large ornamental centre fixture 9ft. in diameter, and four smaller ones located round it. These are equipped with a large number of Osram axial and Osram sign-type lamps varnished in colours. In addition, concealed round the cornice are many hundreds of GecoRay reflectors fitted with Osram lamps in the three colours, Osram striplite providing the white light.
The lighting arrangements are such that by means of switches and dimmers a charming system of colour mixing is obtained. Each colour can he switched on separately, or they can be mixed in varying quantities; the range of the latter is extensive, since more than 150 tints can be obtained. The cornice lighting is very effective, especially when the lamps in alternate GecoRay reflectors are illuminated at their full voltage. Here, light is reflected up the walls and upon the ceiling, producing the effect of coloured strips.
Under the balcony front are fitted five flush type ceiling fixtures similar in design to those fitted over the-stalls, their diameter, however, being 3 ft. 3 ins.
Above - The Auditorium of the Capitol Theatre, Haymarket - From The Cinema News and Property Gazette, February 19th, 1925.
In the auditorium (shown above) a special feature of the lighting-arrangements is the installation of two ornamental fountains, one on either side of the theatre. The basins of white are equipped with Osram lamps, both frosted and varnished, giving four-colour indirect lighting effects; the lamps are Osram Axial and Osram Sign type of 6o and 20 watts respectively. Here, again, direct or colour-mixing arrangements produce effects which enhance the beauties of the colour scheme of the theatre interior. Purple, blue, red, and white light, in ever-changing quantities, emanating from the tops of the basins and reflected from the walls and ceiling of the auditorium produce entrancing kaleidoscopic effects. The decorative features of the auditorium lighting are supplemented by the illumination of the ornamental cove immediately above the proscenium. This is illuminated by means of units formed of specially constructed battens of the compartment type fitted with gas-filled lamps; coloured diffusers provide four-coloured lighting effects.
Above - The Boxes of the Capitol Theatre, Haymarket - From The Cinema News and Property Gazette, February 19th, 1925
The boxes (shown above) are illuminated by means of special ceiling fixtures of G.E.C. manufacture, fitted with "Equiluxo" bowls. Although small, these are arranged to take 12 Osram tubular type lamps, thus allowing for three lamps per colour, which evenly illuminates the glassware. Here, as before, the colours are purple, blue, red and white.
Over the balcony and cove cornice, the ceiling is illuminated by means of cornice lighting and special ceiling- fixtures.
The cornice lighting is provided by means of special G.E.C. trough type reflectors fitted with Osram Sign type lamps in four colours; the ceiling fixtures are similar to those installed over the stalls.
Above - The Illuminated Dome of the Capitol Theatre, Haymarket - From The Cinema News and Property Gazette, February 19th, 1925
The dome (shown above) is illuminated by a large number of Osram lamps concealed in the base. The effect is distinctly attractive, the star-spangled dome being shown to advantage.
In the foyer the illumination is abundant and even; this is obtained through the medium of G.E.C. pendants finished in Georgian silver, with "Equiluxo" glassware equipped with gas-filled lamps; the corridors are illuminated with G.E.C. "Superlux" glassware ceiling fittings and Osram gas-filled lamps.
Below the theatre there is a large dance hall, where the lighting features are also extremely decorative. In the centre of the main ceiling is a specially constructed ceiling fixture, 6 ft. 6 ins. in diameter, fitted with glass panels which are illuminated by means of Osram tubular type 20-watt lamps in four colours; these are arranged horizontally.
Round the central fitting are fitted 24 radial glazed panels. These are illuminated by means of vacuum lamps arranged in four colours on special interior fittings. In addition, there are fitted four pendant fixtures, 5 ft. 6 ins. in diameter, and two pendant fittings. 4 ft. 6 ins. in diameter; these are fitted with special interiors arranged to take Osram Sign type and Axial type lamps in four colours.
A small but very important lighting feature of the Capitol theatre is the illumination of the floor and steps leading to the various seats: This is accomplished, in the body of the theatre, by means of Osglim lamps fitted at certain points behind diffusing glass screens recessed in the wall; the result is very effective.
In the circle, the glass and Osglim lamps are recessed into the steps, one in each step. Each glass has a letter painted upon the under side, so that persons moving up or down the steps can easily locate the row containing their seats.
The lighting scheme described was designed by the illuminating Engineering Department of the General Electric Company, Limited, Magnet House, Kingsway, W.C. 2, in collaboration with the architect, Mr. Andrew Mather, and the entire installation was carried out by Messrs. Grierson, Limited, 43, Bloomsbury Square, W.C. 1.
The above text was first published in the Cinema News and Property
Gazette, February 19th, 1925.
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