The Capitol Theatre, North Street, Horsham, West Sussex
Formerly - The Ritz Cinema / ABC / Horsham Arts Centre
With some details of the former Capitol Theatre, London Road, Horsham
Above - The Capitol Theatre, North Street, Horsham - Courtesy the Capitol Theatre Archive.
The Capitol Theatre is situated on North Street, Horsham, and originally opened as the Ritz Cinema on June the 13th 1936. The Theatre was built for Union Cinemas and designed in the Art Deco Style by L. H. Parsons of Horsham's own Architectural Firm Goodman & Kay, with Verity and Beverley acting as consultants. Goodman & Kay had also designed the earlier Capitol Theatre on London Road (later Medwin Walk), Horsham, which had first opened with the film 'Chu Chin Chow' on the 7th of November 1923 as a small 632 seat Cinema with stage facilities, an image of this Theatre and more details can be found here.
The Ritz Cinema was originally built for cinema use only with no stage facilities, and had seating for 1,086 people on two levels, stalls and one circle, the Cinema also had a Compton 2 Manual / 4 Ranks organ with Melotone unit installed from the start, which can be seen in the photograph below.
Above - The original auditorium of the former Ritz Cinema, Horsham in 1936 - Courtesy the Capitol Theatre Archive.
The Ritz Cinema continued in operation for many years under its original name but in 1967 it was renamed ABC and then continued operating as a Cinema under this name until it was eventually closed by Associated British Cinemas on the 26th of June 1982.
Right - The ABC, Horsham during the run of the film 'My Fair Lady' in the 1960s - Courtesy the Capitol Theatre Archive.
Horsham District Council then purchased the building as they planned to upgrade it for live theatre use to replace the former 1923 Capitol Theatre, situated originaly on London Road (later Medwin Walk), which was to be demolished in 1983 for the construction of a Marks & Spencer store on the site.
The Ritz Cinema building was substantially altered at this time, the original foyer and a portion of the former rear stalls of the Cinema were rebuilt into a new larger foyer and Art Gallery, whilst the remainder of the rear stalls of the former Cinema were converted into a new 126 seat Cinema, again called the Ritz. The former cafe, on the first floor of the original Cinema, along with the circle foyer and the rear of the circle were converted into a new cafe and bar, and also more space for the Art Gallery. The front of the Circle of the original Cinema was then extended forward and a new Stage and Fly Tower were constructed on vacant land behind the screen of the original Cinema. After all this work was completed the new Theatre, still with much of the Ritz Cinema's original Art Deco auditorium plasterwork in place, but with a now much smaller capacity of 450, reopened as the Horsham Arts Centre on the 21st of December 1984.
Above - Redevelopment of the former Ritz / ABC, Horsham in 1983 - Courtesy the Capitol Theatre Archive.
Above - The Auditorium of the Horsham Arts Centre in 1984 - Courtesy the Capitol Theatre Archive.
Above - The Auditorium and Stage of the Horsham Arts Centre in 1984 - Courtesy the Capitol Theatre Archive.
Further reconstruction occurred nearly 20 years later when the Theatre was closed in January 2002 for a £6 million pound refurbishment. This involved a new glass atrium being constructed to the front of the building which housed a new box office and cafe on the ground floor, and above this a new Cinema and Art Gallery were constructed. At the same time the Cinema on the ground floor was refurbished and a new bar added. To the side of the Theatre a new 100 seat Studio Theatre was constructed, along with new dressing rooms and a Plant Room, and a new Scene Dock was constructed on the stage right side of the Stage House. The Theatre's main auditorium was also completely refurbished at this time, and both levels were re-raked and re-seated. The Theatre's auditorium and original Art Deco plasterwork were repainted in purple with cream highlights. The Theatre was reopened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in September 2003 under its new name of the Capitol Theatre, in homage to the former Capitol Theatre on London Road which had been demolished in 1983.
The Capitol Theatre is today a successful 'receiving house' with seating for 400 in its main auditorium, which can also be used for the showing of films, along with its two Cinema Screens which seat a further 175 people in its number one screen, and 89 in its smaller second screen. All three screens are equipped with digital cinema projectors, although 35mm capabilities have been retained in Screen one.
The Theatre is today the only surviving working Theatre in the UK to still be called the Capitol, a name which in former years could be seen in many towns up and down the Country.
I am very grateful to Jack Lane, who currently works at the Capitol Theatre, for sending me the images shown on this page, and also for providing much of the information on the Theatre's history. Images are courtesy the Theatre's own archive.
You may like to visit the Theatre's own Website here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
You may find the following pages from this site of interest: