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The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

Above - The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

The Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.Finsbury Park Astoria is the fourth Theatre to be opened in the chain originally visualised by the Directorate two years ago. The Theatres already opened include the Brixton Astoria (August, 1929); the Old Kent Road Astoria (February, 1930); and the Streatham Astoria (June, 1930).

Right - The Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

To open four Theatres of the magnitude of the Astorias in just over twelve months is a record of which the Directorate are justifiably proud, while the success of the Theatres already opened is confirmation that the policy originally laid down and carried out was a wise one.

The policy of the Directorate is to provide :—

(1) Theatres of Unequalled Size and Magnificence in suburban areas.

(2) Entertainment unexcelled by even West End of London Houses.

(3) Music by picked Orchestras and Grand Organs.

(4) Comfort, Courtesy, and Service.

(5) Strictly suburban prices.

The Opening Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

Above - The Opening Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

The 'Directorate' of the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.The Astorias have been acknowledged by the Press of this country - and America - to be real super Theatres presenting super Entertainment in Pictures, Vaudeville, Stage Production, and Music, and the ideals which have proved so successful and acceptable will be continued.

The Directorate and Management are sincere in their endeavours to raise the standard of Entertainment and Entertaining, and the maintenance of their declared policy is accepted as a duty to the public they serve.

Right - The 'Directorate' of the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

The Theatre Beautiful

The site on which the Finsbury Park Astoria is erected is at the junction of Seven Sisters and Isledon Roads, quite close to Finsbury Park Railway and Tube Stations. Approaching the Theatre from the North, the impression of a mighty, but dignified, design is at once conveyed. The frontage and side elevations, treated in Whitbirk (glaze) are on traditional lines, with modern detail, and the result is pleasing and effective.

Modern design and forethought for the comfort and convenience of Patrons has been the keynote of the design and equipment of the Theatre, which is planned with the seating accommodation on two floors, all arranged so that a perfect view of the stage and screen is obtained from every seat, while the acoustic properties, strengthened by the use of non-resonant plaster, are such that a stage turn or talkie is clearly audible from every part of the vast area covered by the Stalls and Balcony.

The Auditorium of the Finsbury Park Astoria when it first opened - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

Above - The Auditorium of the Finsbury Park Astoria when it first opened - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

An Advertisement of Marc-Henri & Laverdet, Decorators of the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.It is in the Auditorium, however, that exceptional credit must be given the designers for the originality displayed. This is elliptical in shape, the general design being based on Moorish-Spanish ideals of architecture and decoration. The elaborate proscenium arch is surmounted by an ornamental balcony, projecting beyond the proscenium opening, and continued around the balcony in a delightful reproduction of a Spanish Village with mountains in the distance. The ceiling, representing the sky, is beautifully arched and gives a naturalness to the whole design. The colour scheme of the seating and carpeting blends beautifully with the whole, and with the wonderful lighting system heightens the impression the designer has so successfully pursued - that of an open-air Spanish garden.

Right - An Advertisement of Marc-Henri & Laverdet, Decorators of the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

That the safety of the public shall be assured is a vital point in building a cinema, and in consequence elaborate precautions are taken to ensure the perfect safety. Exits are amply provided, and the whole building is rendered fire resisting in accordance with the regulations of the London County Council.

It would be quite possible to produce, at the Astoria, Finsbury Park, any stage play or revue, as a fully-equipped stage is provided complete with counterweighted scenery. Beyond the stage are a large number of well-lighted and equipped dressing rooms for the use of artistes.

Machinery and the Modern Theatre

An Advertisement for Carrier Ventilation - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.The mighty modern Cinema Theatre such as the Finsbury Park Astoria, and its companion houses at Brixton, Old Kent Road, and Streatham, are veritable engineering marvels, and contain within their walls more machinery than can be found in many good sized commercial factories. So much is this the case, that one of the first and most necessary appointments the Directorate have to make is that of Consulting Engineer, who has to advise what to instal and to supervise its installation, in addition to co-operating with the architect on every detail.

Right - An Advertisement for Carrier Ventilation - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

Major Charles H. Bell, O.B.E., who has been consulting engineer for the whole of the Astorias, is eminently qualified for the work, in which he has had unequalled experience. He supervised the erection of the Plaza and the Carlton in London, and other theatres in France and the United States.

The Finsbury Park Astoria power machinery, unseen by patrons, is sufficient to fill the whole of the auditorium. There are two distinct ventilating plants of the latest design, one for the Auditorium and another for the Theatres annexes. Three million cubic feet of air are brought into the Auditorium every hour, without draughts, having previously been thoroughly washed and cleansed, and always at a temperature to ensure comfort.

An Advertisement for the Berkeley Electrical Engineering Company - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.Two enormous boilers, capable of producing 10,000 lbs. of steam per hour, are situated in the basement, and supply the whole of the hot water service for the building and steam for the radiators on the stage, in the Dressing Rooms, etc.

The Vacuum cleaning plant is another engineering marvel, and every corner of the theatre, every seat, and every inch of carpet is thoroughly and scientifically cleaned daily.

For lighting the Auditorium and in the production of lighting effects, 1,000,000 candle-power of electrical energy is used, and this accomplished without naked lights, glaring to eye or causing fatigue or discomfort.

Left - An Advertisement for the Berkeley Electrical Engineering Company - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

The projection and talking picture machinery is the most complete of its kind in any theatre to date, and is situated on the roof of the building - making for absolute safety, while the Safety Curtain - 15 tons of steel and asbestos - has special machinery by which it can be raised and lowered automatically.

In all, there are over one hundred electric motors of varying power in the building, each doing their own particular job. In the Modern Theatre - Machinery rules.

Landscape Decorations

For the landscape decoration of the Finsbury Park Astoria, the Spanish style was decided on, with particular preference for the Moorish influence and archaic Gothic forms, as being the most suitable for brilliant colour and fantastic shape.

The Fountain Court at the Finsbury Park Astoria, showing the Rotunda Tea Lounge - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

Above - The Fountain Court at the Finsbury Park Astoria, showing the Rotunda Tea Lounge - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

The Entrance Vestibule is of simple modern design, with an elaborate black and white marble floor and a rich star shaped ceiling. It is a surprising contrast to the great two-storied Entrance Rotunda into which it opens. The black and red-tiled floor with central fountain is surrounded by eight massive octagonal columns, with Moorish bracketed caps in vermillion and gold, supporting the floor of the Tea-room Balcony, and a panelled and brilliantly-coloured dome through the top of which a small circle of blue night sky is visible. The heavily textured gold ceiling of the Tea-room can be seen from below, adding to the spaciousness of the general effect.

The Tea-room is formed around the wall of the Rotunda on the first floor; all its windows have Moorish arches and yellow curtains, striped horizontally red and green. The ceiling is gold, heavily textured and decorated with inter-lacing circles of varying size. Large stars, formed with strip lighting, surrounding facetted panels, the points being filled with modelled fibrous plaster brightly coloured in red, blue and gold, are the chief source of light.

In a Spanish Garden - A General View of the Proscenium and Front Stalls at the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

Above - In a Spanish Garden - A General View of the Proscenium and Front Stalls at the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

The Auditorium, entered from the Foyer, is designed as a true landscape to give an open air effect. The ceiling is the soft blue colour of a night sky, or, according to the lighting, a summer sky, the buildings hung with creeper plants and trees. The Proscenium and its surroundings form the main feature of the ensemble; it takes the form of a great brick arch, with receding rings, the spandrils of which are enriched with heavily modelled plaster scroll work in bright colours. On either side are twisted columns about twenty-five feet high, surmounted by archaic lions.

The Grand Foyer at the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

Above - The Grand Foyer at the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

To help the illusion of open air, all the carpets in the Auditorium are designed to represent grass with cobbled paths down the stairs and gangways. The proscenium tableaux curtains are in wide stripes of red, black and gold, and behind them, on the safety curtain, is painted a Moorish-Spanish water garden set in an avenue of trees, thus continuing the atmospheric effect beyond the theatre.

Builders of the Theatre

The Builders of the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.Although they do not by any means confine themselves to building houses of entertainment, GRIGGS & SON, of Westminster, can certainly claim to accomplish more of this class of work than most of their confreres. For many years the firm has been prominent in building new cinemas and theatres and in bringing some of the older ones up-to-date. To-night, September 29th, 1930, they share with Mr. E. A. Stone, F.S.I., the architect, the unique experience of having a New Cinema, the Finsbury Park Astoria, and a New Theatre, the Whitehall, opening to the public on the same day. Messrs. Griggs have been responsible for the building of three of the Astoria Chain of Theatres, those at Brixton, Streatham and Finsbury Park, while recent theatre contracts include the Prince Edward Theatre, in Soho, and the Whitehall Theatre, in Whitehall.

Right - The Builders of the Finsbury Park Astoria - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

In carrying out these contracts, Messrs. Griggs and Son earned a reputation for rapidity of construction - a most vital factor today - good craftsmanship, and joinery of a very high quality and finish. They were responsible for the new Dressing-room Block and bringing the stage up to modern standards at the Old Vic., and later for the extensive alterations at the South London Palace. The Finsbury Park Astoria, just completed, is an outstanding achievement of which they have every reason to be justly proud. To sum up, Messrs. Griggs and Son's position to-day as builders in the London theatre world is unique and well deserved. They have made a notable contribution to the amenities of London as a great centre of public entertainment.

Management at Finsbury Park Astoria

General Manager

Charles Penley - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.MR. CHARLES PENLEY, who will control Finsbury Park Astoria as well as the other theatres in the chain, requires no introduction. No manager in London is better known, and few can equal his capabilities or his experience. Mr. Penley has been honoured by Royal Commands; he has controlled such houses as the Alhambra, Leicester Square, the Astoria, Charing Cross Road, the Prince of Wales', Lewisham, etc., etc.

Right - Charles Penley - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

He it was who introduced Cinema Music to the world via the ether, and he was the first to manage a talking picture theatre, presenting Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer." As a producer of stage spectacles, Mr. Penley has no rivals, and the shows he has put on at Brixton, etc., have been the talk of the profession. A wholehearted enthusiast in his profession, his is the spirit which not only commands success, but deserves it.

Resident Manager

E. L. Dimmock, Manager of the Finsbury Park Astoria when it opened - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.MR. E. L. DIMMOCK, who has been appointed resident manager of Finsbury Park Astoria, is also a young man of enthusiasm and experience. He is no stranger to North London as his first position was Queen's Hall, Palmer's Green. Shepherd's Bush Pavilion, the Capitol, Haymarket, the Tivoli, Strand, the Astoria, Charing Cross Road, and the Astoria, Brixton, have supplied Mr. Dimmock with the necessary experience, and he comes to Finsbury Park Astoria fully qualified.

Left - E. L. Dimmock, Manager of the Finsbury Park Astoria when it opened - From the Theatre's Opening Night Programme - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

Tactful and courteous to patrons and patrons-to be; respected by his staff - well over 200 at Finsbury Park - Mr. Dimmock is the right man for the position.

The text and images on this page are from the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria on the 29th of September 1930 - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

The Full Programme

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Above - The Full Opening Night Programme for the Finsbury Park Astoria - Courtesy Ron Knee Archive.

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