Webpage created: April 22, 2018
Webpage updated: April 23, 2018
GAUMONT PALACE CINEMA
In March 1929 it was announced that the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres Ltd were to erect a new cinema to replace the Andrews' Picture Palace.
Alderman George Dymond, the Mayor of Plymouth, assisted by Lady Astor, officially opened the Gaumont Palace Cinema on Monday November 16th 1931. Mr Leslie James entertained the audiences on the Compton organ during the intervals that week.
The building's fluted columns and tiled foyer immediately attracted attention whilst inside the auditorium a mighty Compton organ had been installed at a cost of over £6,000. Mr Leslie James entertained the audiences on this during the intervals that week. The internal walls of the Cinema had been covered by acoustic felt and fabric to prevent echo. Dressing rooms had also been provided.
Designed by Mr W H Watkins and built by Messrs McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd of Highbury Grove, London N5, the main structure was formed of a new material named Clinco-Compo which was manufactured at Pomphlett, Plymstock. This was faced with red brick from Reading, Berkshire. Seating for 2,252 people had been provided by Messrs W W Turner & Company of King's Heath, Birmingham. Heating was by warm air ducts and even the lighting was hidden behind grills on the walls.
The Gaumont's first manager and licensee was Mr R E Eady and the advertised prices were: front circle 2s; back circle 1/6d; front stalls 7d; back stalls 1s. There were continuous performances from 2 until 10.30pm.
Mr Maurice Leacey was the Chief Projectionist. Under him, in 1939, were four projectionists, Mr R Thomas (2nd), Mr C Charters (3rd), Mr C Peel (4th) and Mr E West (5th). The projection "suite" consisted of six rooms. Crompton-Parkinson generators supplied Hall and Connelly type R.4 H.I. arc lamps, which were installed with Gaumont R/S Eclipse projectors. On either side of the projectors were a "Premier" 75 amp spotlight and a slide lantern. The Duosonic Sound was provided by two 200 watt main amplifiers and two 10 watt input amplifiers, with a change-over switch. The stage battens and floats and the proscenium arch lighting were all three-colour. These were all controlled by a dimmer switch with remote control conveniently located in the projection room. The screen curtains were also controlled from there but the house tabs were operated by hand from the prompt side of the stage.
In later years Mr Leacey recalled the opening day as a memorable one. Traffic in Union Street was halted by the large crowds who had gathered to see Lady Astor. There was a rumour that Charlie Chaplin would be present but that was not to be. Inside the cinema Mr Leacey and his colleagues were hoping that nothing would go wrong and luckily that was just how the opening show went -- without a hitch. Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge appeared in "The Ghost Train". The supporting film was "Almost a Divorce" starring Sydney Howard.
From March 25th 1941 it was known simply as the Gaumont Cinema. It closed during the Plymouth Blitz but reopened on Monday May 5th 1941 showing the film "Son of Monte Cristo" from Midday until 8pm only.
The Gaumont Palace closed on Saturday December 2nd 1961. Mr A M Edwards had been its manager for the last eleven years while the chief projectionist was still Mr Maurice Leacey. Another long-serving member was Mr Jack Spencer, who had transferred over when the Savoy was destroyed, and who had been in charge of boiler maintenance since 1946. The last films shown were "Francis of Assissi" and "Temple of the Swinging Doll".
Closure was in preparation for its conversion into the Top Rank Entertainment Centre, the cinema part becoming the New Odeon Cinema. The Cinema's Compton organ was sold to Mr Cecil Howett and was moved to the Embankment Road Bible Christian Chapel.