OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 14, 2016.
Webpage updated: March 14, 2016

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ALHAMBRA THEATRE

The Alhambra Theatre at 12/13 Tavistock Street was opened in 1894 as the Empire Theatre.  It subsequently changed names several times, becoming the Metropole Theatre in 1896, the Palladium in 1912, the Picturedrome (Palladium) in January 1914 and the Theatre Metropole (Picturedrome) in February 1914.

On September 27th 1923 the Theatre was auctioned at the Royal Hotel, Plymouth, by Messrs Woolland, Son & Manico, but there were no bids.  However, the Theatre was bought privately and completely rebuilt.  It appears that the patrons had been unable to see the stage from the circle so the stage was lowered and part of the balcony decorations were removed.  As a result it no longer had a gallery or a pit, just the stalls, grand circle, upper circle and balcony.  The work cost over 40,000 and included the installation of three-coloured lighting throughout.  Two new film projectors, as used at the Capitol Theatre in New York, no less, were also installed at a cost of 150 each.  The Theatre was redecorated in buff and brown, with papered panels, gilt fittings and seats upholstered in blue.

Described in its advertising as 'The People's Theatre', the theatre was now called the New Alhambra.  The booking office opened on April 16th 1924, when it was announced that free gifts would be given away every Monday night and that all ticket holders for the first house would get a free picture show at 6pm.   The Grand Opening was performed by Sir Gerald Fowler Burton on Easter Saturday April 19th 1924.  Mr G E Prance, the director, announced that shows would start at 2.45pm and 7.30pm and that there would be reviews at first but it was intended to show the Charlie Chaplin film "A Woman of Paris" very soon.  The opening ceremony was followed by the staging of Mrs R H Wagner's review "Remnants", in aid of the Plymouth hospitals.

Mr Prance's announcement about starting times was immediately disregarded, as the opening week's production, 'the Screaming Comedy Review' "On the Go", starring Joe Boganny, started at 6.35 and 8.45pm.

"A Woman of Paris", with Edna Purviance, was shown during the week of May 12th 1924.

On August 4th 1930 the Alhambra Theatre presented its first talking pictures before a modest audience.   The films were "Acquitted" and "The Fall of Eve".  However, it soon became apparent that 'the system of voice production' was not functioning satisfactorily and the film was taken off.   Much to the amusement of the audience a blank screen was substituted accompanied by the music "If I Had a Talking Picture of You".  Films continued to be shown until February 1932, the last advert being for "Third Time Lucky", with Bobby Howe.  The Theatre was then closed until start of 1934, when a pantomime was staged.  This was followed on February 5th 1934, by the "Gigantic Circus 1934", for which the stage had to be strengthened.

Like all places of public assembly, the Theatre was closed upon the declaration of War in September 1939 but it was quickly re-opened, on Saturday September 9th, because the Company that were to stage the next production had remained at Devonport in the hope that it would be able to perform.

The Alhambra Theatre was destroyed around 6pm on the evening of Tuesday April 22nd 1941.  Apparently the actor Mr Bransby Williams was due on stage that fateful night but on his way to the Alhambra he stopped off at the Lifeboat Public House to "warm up" for the first house at 7.30pm.  By the time he got to the Theatre it had gone and it was later said it was the first time he had ever missed a performance.

So sudden was the enforced "Final Curtain" that the Theatre was still advertising in the Western Evening Herald on the evening of Wednesday 23rd.