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The Paramount Theatre, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne

Later - The Odeon

Introduction - The Theatre - The Opening - The Wurlitzer Organ - Later History - Demolition

Also see: Newcastle Theatre - A personal reminiscence by Donald Auty - Pantomimes in Newcastle 50 Years Ago by Donald Auty - Moss Empires' Theatres in the Fifties by Donald Auty

Newcastle Index

A Google StreetView Image of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle after it had been closed by Odeon in 2002 - Click to Interact.

The Paramount Theatre was situated on Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, and opened on Monday the 7th of September 1931 with a stage show called 'The Ladder of Roses' and the Film 'Monte Carlo'. The Theatre was designed as a Cine / Variety Theatre by the well known architects Verity and Beverly with an interior designed in the Baroque Style. The Theatre's stage was 30 foot deep by 54 foot wide, and right from the start there was a Wurlitzer 3 Manual / 19 Ranks Theatre Organ fitted, the console of which was on a lift which could be raised up when played. There was also a 200 seat restaurant for patrons, situated in the basement of the Theatre.

The Bioscope reported on the new Paramount Theatre in their 9th of September 1931 edition in great detail, along with many images, some of which were published in their next edition on the 16th of September, and all of which I have added below. Later history for the Theatre can be found furthur down on this page.

PARAMOUNT'S NEWCASTLE THEATRE OPENS

The Newcastle "Paramount,” the North’s most elaborate cinema, was officially opened on Monday. No verbal description can do justice to this truly magnificent theatre which, at every turn, presents some fresh evidence of luxurious artistry and careful forethought on the part of the architect and his co-elaborators. There is an open-handed sumptuousness about its appointments which must make it a landmark in the northern cinema world, and will set fresh standards in the whole entertainment industry. The house is one which impresses its originality at every turn, but in no detail is this originality secured by flouting recognised standards of beauty and good taste. The whole scheme is harmonious and perfectly co-ordinated; it arrests attention by its inherent beauty and not by any ostentatious effort to shock and challenge.

In the new Paramount house modernism is gracefully wedded to older decorative forms as in this typical alcove. The curtain edges strike the only irritating note - From 'The Bioscope' September 16th 1931.The building has been erected at a cost of approximately £250,000, and was designed by Frank Thomas Verity, F.R.I.B.A. in association with his partner S. Beverley, F.R.I.B.A., who have developed a style of their own based on classic tradition. Mr. Verity has been responsible for the designing of many of the most famous cinemas, including the Plaza and Carlton Theatres in London, the Paramount Theatre in Paris, and the Paramount Theatre in Manchester. In each of these theatres there is an individuality which does not follow any given style, and all are designed predominantly for the comfort and enjoyment of the patron.

Right - In the new Paramount house modernism is gracefully wedded to older decorative forms as in this typical alcove. The curtain edges strike the only irritating note - From 'The Bioscope' September 16th 1931.

Restful, Intimate Atmosphere

The auditorium of the theatre in Newcastle has been decorated in a modern treatment of the Baroque period. Despite the vast size a welcome effect of intimacy has been obtained by the use of a generous scale in the decorative scheme. An atmosphere of peace and quiet pervades the interior, due in no small measure to the effective colour scheme which has been adopted throughout. This colour scheme is made up predominantly of blues, buffs and deep rose tints. There are touches here and there of gold, silver and marble Dutch metalling, the effect of the whole being one of pleasing colour harmony. It can safely be said that the interior decorations of this huge theatre are among the finest in Europe. All effects have been achieved by free painting on the walls which has been carried out by special artists from London. All pure decoration as far back as the ancient Egyptian Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Grecian Empire, and the Roman Empire originally took this form...

The Auditorium of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle - From 'The Bioscope' 16th September 1931.

Above - The Auditorium of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle - From 'The Bioscope' 16th September 1931.

Three Years’ Seating Research

A special studio was established in the theatre by the decorators, Messrs. W. Turner Lord & Co., of London. It was necessary to make full-size drawings of all the various details which occur on the ceilings. The building had to be measured inch by inch, this being necessary in view of the variation in certain parts of the buildings. In some cases the designs had to be repeated in full size many times. The main motive of the decoration scheme centres around 16 large terra-cotta silk panels, some of which are 35 ft. high with figures and foliage painted thereon. These panels were carried out in the London studios of the company and when finished were transported to Newcastle and fixed in position on the auditorium walls.

Seating has been provided for 2,604, made up of: Stalls, 1,374; royal circle, grand circle and balcony, 1,230. As far as the seating is concerned, the minutist details have been considered to ensure the perfect comfort of patrons. The chairs have been specially designed following research work over three years. During that time hundreds of X-ray photographs have been taken at the London hospitals to discover in which particular style of chair the maximum comfort can be obtained. Everything, even to the correct curvature of the spine has been carefully considered. The design of the theatre is such that everyone seated in the auditorium has an undistorted view.

The building has received scientific treatment to enable the lowest undertone to be heard in every part with perfect clarity. There is not the faintest suspicion of an echo in any part. In order to maintain the correct temperature and humidity it is necessary to bring into the auditorium approximately three million cubic feet of air per hour, brought in in such a manner as to avoid draughts. The Paramount is the first theatre in the North to be equipped with apparatus for scientifically maintaining the best atmospheric conditions. A refrigeration plant capable of providing 150 tons of refrigeration every 24 hours has been installed. For this machine alone an electric motor of over 200 H.P. is necessary. The temperature inside the theatre will be kept at 65 degrees with correct humidity, no matter what the conditions may be outside.

Safety in Projection Arrangements

The building has been constructed throughout of steel and concrete and is almost fireproof. The operating room has been constructed on the roof of the building and is adjoined with the rewinding rooms, rectifying room and generating room. The situation of the operating chamber and the provision of fire shutters renders it impossible at any time for fire to get into the auditorium itself. The whole of the projecting room is surrounded by 14-in. walls with portholes of fire-resisting glass. Should an explosion occur the roof would blow off before the fire reached the auditorium. Western Electric sound apparatus has been installed...

The Auditorium and Stage of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle at its opening on the 7th of September 1931 - From 'The Bioscope' 9th September 1931.

Above - The Auditorium and Stage of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle at its opening on the 7th of September 1931 - From 'The Bioscope' 9th September 1931.

The fire curtain covering the proscenium opening weighs tons. It is covered on the front with thick asbestos cloth, and the back with steel plates. It can be lowered either from the stage or from outside the theatre automatically. The theatre can be emptied comfortably within two minutes, the exists having been definitely designed to accomplish this.

Uses 500 kw. per Hour

Special attention has been given to the lighting, which has been installed on an elaborate scale to provide restfulness and to harmonise with the general architectural effects. The total electrical installation in the theatre will consume approximately 500 kw. of electric light per hour. This approximates to 1,000,000 candle power of electrical energy, this current being required for the operation of motors, lighting in the auditorium and foyers, stage effect lighting, signs and outside illumination.

On the stage, provision has been made for the production of the most elaborate scenic and lighting effects. The stage lighting equipment is on the very latest principles known to theatre electrical engineers, and any setting from grand opera to variety can be produced without any additional apparatus being required.

The huge electric illuminated sign at the front of the house measures 50 ft. in length and is one of the largest vertical signs of its kind in England. It shows the word "Paramount,” and is studded with 5,000 lights. The number of lights employed throughout the building totals 12,000.

Highly Original Harold Uniforms

The whole of the uniform dress worn by the attendants has been supplied by Messrs. Alfred Harold (Uniforms), Ltd., of Wardour Street, London. The females are attired in a distinctive dress of trousers and blouse together with berets. The males are attired in a uniform on the lines of the officers’ mess uniform. The colourings of the uniforms and costumes are predominantly French grey and apricot, which tones with the general colour scheme in the theatre. Each female member of the staff wears a large ribbon bow of a gold shade across the front of the blouse; this is exclusive to the Paramount circuit, for which it has been specially designed. The gowns worn by the chocolate girls are black and rose pink costumes on flowing lines. The high collars are rose coloured, the dresses have rose coloured cuffs, and there is rose facing at the bottom of the dress which lends a most attractive appearance to the ensemble...

Gold-Plated Lobby Fittings

The Foyer of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle - From 'The Bioscope' 9th September 1931.

Above - The Foyer of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle - From 'The Bioscope' 9th September 1931.

The Ladies' Cosmetic Room at the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle - From 'The Bioscope' 9th September 1931.All fittings in the lobbies and foyers are 9ct. gold-plated to avoid the metal turning black in course of time. The walls of the grand foyer are decorated with oil paintings by famous artists to the value of approximately £3,000.

A large luxurious cafe, with accommodation for 200 people, has been provided in the basement. Meals will be served from a model kitchen, where everything will be done by electricity.

Right - The Ladies' Cosmetic Room at the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle - From 'The Bioscope' 9th September 1931.

A symphony orchestra of first-class musicians forms a feature of the theatre, and will be composed of thirty musicians under the direction of Anton, the famous conductor and violinist from the Opera House, Milan, the Brussels Conservatoire and the Queen’s Hall, London.

The house is under the supervision of Leslie C. Holderness, and the general management is in the hands of C. Ronald Young, from the Plaza Theatre, London. The complete personnel of the theatre is composed of over 200 people. The house manager is Pat L. O’Connor, from the London Plaza. The theatre will open at 12 o’clock each day.

The above article on the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle was first published in 'The Bioscope', 9th of September 1931.

A Google StreetView Image of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Paramount Theatre, Newcastle - Click to Interact.

The Opening of the Paramount Theatre

From 'The Bioscope' 9th September 1931

The New Paramount Theatre, opened at Newcastle-on-Tyne on Monday night, establishes a new standard of cinema architecture in the provinces, as will be apparent from the descriptive matter and pictures on page xi of this issue. It is equally obvious that Paramount established a new record by the remarkable programme provided for the opening night. Francis A. Mangan has used the wonderful stage and lighting effects with great artistic skill, and his stage presentations, notably the ballet, "A Ladder of Roses," are of extraordinary beauty. Mr. Mangan also had the happy inspiration of engaging the "Eight Black Streaks," a troupe of step dancers who show amazing skill in the art in which so many north country men are experts. The fine orchestra, under Anton, the well known conductor and violinist, and the Wurlitzer organ, manipulated by Vincent Trippet, are also items that will appeal mightily to the music-loving northerners. Practice has made Paramount perfect in the genial art of entertaining its guests, and the reception given after the Opening Performance - attended by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress and about 700 guests - was one of the most brilliant functions ever arranged for such film trade celebration. Mr. Graham and every other member of his hardworking staff must have realised that the success of the evening was a triumph of organisation. J. C. Graham and Earl St. John entrusted the social arrangements to Pat O’Connor and E. Ayres, in whose hands a flawless and memorable programme was carried through.

The above article on the Paramount Theatre's Opening was first published in 'The Bioscope', 9th of September 1931.

The Paramount Theatre's Later History and Demolition

In November 1939 all of Paramount's UK Theatres were bought by Odeon and therefore on the 22nd of April 1940 the Theatre was renamed Odeon. In 1954 the Theatre was altered for Cinemascope presentations which began with a presentation of 'The Robe'. This included modernising the auditorium and simplifying the Theatre's decorations, although there was still a lot of the original interior left in place at this time. Sadly the Theatre's Wurlitzer Organ was removed in the 1960s.

Despite the changes over the years the Theatre had been staging live shows and showing film presentations since the 1930s, and amazingly, given the loss of Theatres all over the Country, by the 1970s the Paramount's stage was still in use, although mainly for Rock and Pop Concerts, with the likes of 'The Rolling Stones' and 'The Who' who both played there, along with many other big names of the period.

There was a brief period of uncertainty for the Paramount in 1972 when a plan to demolish the Theatre and redevelop the site was mooted but in the end the plans weren't carried out. However, in 1975 the auditorium was radically altered when the Theatre was tripled. The main screen was created by extending the Circle forward to the proscenium creating a large 1,228 seat Cinema. Two more screens with seating for 158 and 250 were added below the Circle at the same time, and a fourth was added in 1980 in the Theatre's former Stage area, and so ended any hope of the Theatre returning to live entertainment.

In 1987 the building was refurbished at a cost of £750,000, and in 1999 it was given a Grade II Listed Status by English Heritage who stated at the time that the Theatre was the 'best surviving Paramount cinema in Britain, with well composed facade and rich interior with Lalique glass fittings'. However, despite the future looking hopeful for the building the Listed Status would not protect it in the end.

The Odeon, Newcastle on the night of its closure - Courtesy John Wood.

Above - The Odeon, Newcastle on the night of its closure - Courtesy John Wood who was working at the Tyneside Cinema opposite at the time. The Theatre's signage states 'Last Show Here Nov 26, Gate Odeon Opens Nov 28.'

In 2001 Odeon had plans for the building of a new Multiplex Cinema in the Centre of Newcastle and they applied and succeeded in having the Paramount's Listed Status removed so that they could demolish the building and sell off the site for redevelopment. The Theatre was closed on the 26th of November 2002 after a last showing of the films 'Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets' and 'Die Another Day'. The Company's new Odeon would open two days later. After the closure of the Cinema Odeon quickly removed all of its corporate branding from the building so that by the following morning all trace of it was gone, see photograph below.

The Odeon, Newcastle on the morning after its closure - Courtesy John Wood.

Above - The Odeon, Newcastle on the morning after its closure - Courtesy John Wood who was working at the Tyneside Cinema opposite at the time. John says 'It was all very sad - they removed all corporate branding overnight as if it had never existed.'

A Google Earth View of the former Paramount Theatre / Odeon, Newcastle before it was demolished - Click to Interact.After the closure by Odeon in 2002 the Theatre then stood empty and disused for many years until its eventual demolition was begun in January 2017.

The Theatre's demolition didn't go quite to plan however, as on the 3rd of April 2017, in the late evening at 11pm, the Theatre's entire facade collapsed onto the street below. Amazingly there were no injuries or fatalities and it was lucky that the collapse had happened at such a late hour or many people may have been killed or injured if it had happened in the daytime. The BBC reported on the collapse here.

Right - A Google Earth View of the former Paramount Theatre / Odeon, Newcastle before it was demolished - Click to Interact.

The chaotic mass of debris was soon removed however, and demolition of the building proceeded into the following month and before long there was no sign that the wonderful 1930s Paramount Theatre ever existed.

Some of the later information for this Theatre's history was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website where they also have many images of the Theatre over the years here.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

Wurlitzer's Paramount Organ

From 'The Bioscope' 9th September 1931

The splendid Paramount instrument is by far the largest instrument in the North, and its general specification follows on the lines of the Manchester Paramount instrument. It is a particularly big model built to standard Wurlitzer specifications, and is of a type likely to become standard in the Paramount group, for instruments of a similar type are, we understand, planned for Leeds and Liverpool.

For hundreds of years only two methods of producing pipe tone have been used in organs, namely, the Flue-pipe and the Reed-pipe. Visitors to the Paramount will hear the Diaphone, which is an entirely new method of tone production, capable of expressive power by varying the wind pressure without altering the pitch. A notable Wurlitzer feature is the pizzicato touch, which produces a staccato or plucking effect on specific stops, very similar to a violinist plucking the strings of his violin with his fingers. With these means of finger touch expression a performer with one hand can be playing upon the Flute, by depressing certain fingers a little harder the melody can be brought out on the Clarionet, and at the same time have the Oboe horn playing pizzicato. The Paramount organ weighs 15 tons and occupied 70 tons of shipping space, and its blowing equipment calls for a 15 horsepower motor.

The organ, with its accessory apparatus, occupies three separate chambers located on both sides of the proscenium arch. Preliminary demonstrations of the instrument have shown that it has an amazing variety of tone-colour even for a Wurlitzer, and the Paramount organ items are certain to be outstanding features in the Newcastle entertainment world. Alex Taylor, one of the Wurlitzer Super- Six, will be organist at the Granada, and Vincent Trippett, who has broadcasted all over the world, will be in charge of the Paramount instrument.'

The above article was first published in the Bioscope, 9th September 1931.

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