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Stockport Plaza Theatre

Location: Stockport

The Plaza first opened its doors to the public on 6th October 1932, with a charity show for Stockport Infirmary. The films shown were “Jailbird”, starring Laurel and Hardy, and “Out of the Blue” with Gene Gerrard and Jessie Matthews. Ticket prices ranged from 7d (3p) to 2/- (10p). Built at this time, The Plaza stood on the cusp between silent movies and the talkies; it looked both backwards and forwards. It also created a luxurious escape for people accustomed to the hard life of a Northern industrial town.

The Plaza began a programme of entertainment never seen before in Stockport with a mix of cinema and live performance. Shows included a silent newsreel, accompanied by The Plaza orchestra, featuring the Compton organ played by resident organist, Mr Cecil Chadwick.

The history of The Plaza is not without controversy. The Stockport Advertiser rallied against the new theatre, denouncing it as a bad influence on the town’s youth and complaining that it had been constructed by “outside labourers”, at the height of The Depression. Local newspapers initially refused to take The Plaza adverts.

As the pace of social change started to accelerate, the heyday of The Super Cinema and Variety Theatre was brief. By the mid 1930’s, cine-variety had ended and The Plaza shows assumed the familiar pattern of one feature film and a supporting “B” movie. By 1939, the success of The Plaza had provoked competition and there were two more Super Cinemas in Stockport’s town centre and two in the suburbs.

During the war, the town’s cinemas remained popular with many residents taking the view that The Plaza, being cut into a rock face, was one of the safest places to be during an air raid. The opening brochure had, in fact, boasted that nothing short of an earthquake could disturb the building.

The Plaza was refurbished in the 1950’s and continued to prosper in spite of the national decline in audiences. The 1953 Coronation proved a watershed in the acquisition of television sets and this, combined with the growth of other social pursuits, sealed the fate of many cinemas. By the late 1950’s, some Super Cinemas, barely 20 years old, were closing their doors and some were demolished.

However, the Plaza could cater for Cinemascope and 3-D and many stars made personal appearances to promote their films. The Plaza was also a hit with younger audiences and had its own Saturday children’s club, showing cartoons such as Flash Gordon and Zorro. Live entertainment took place on Saturday evenings featuring local musicians and Sunday jazz concerts followed. In 1960, the Plaza staged its first pantomime with the Dallas Boys in “Babes In The Wood”.

In 1965 the Plaza was sold to the Mecca Leisure Group for conversion to a Bingo hall. The switch to bingo was fought by Stockport Council but Mecca appealed to the Government and won their case. The Plaza's final show was on 31st December 1966 and featured Jerry Lee Lewis in “Three on a Coach” and Audie Murphy in “The Texican” and William Starr at the organ. Rank Leisure sold the Plaza to Stockport Plaza Trust in March 2000 and, after massive community and volunteer effort, audiences took their seats for the opening show on 7th October 2000

Stockport Plaza Theatre
Mersey Square
Stockport
SK1 1SP

Box Office Number:
0161 477 7779

Visit Website
www.stockportplaza.co.uk

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