THE GRANADA THEATRE CIRCUIT
The Granada Theatre Bedford during the days of the Second World War
Top Right: Both American and British Servicemen are seen walking past the theatre, and if you look carefully, a Granada Sergeant is on duty and standing at the entrance.
Bottom Right: poster from a 1960s Stage Show
PART TEN: STARTING A CIRCUIT
THE GRANADA THEATRE MAIDSTONE
The first of the circuit of twelve theatres to be built was the Granada Theatre Maidstone and opened in January 1934. The films chosen to opened the theatre were A Cuckoo in the Nest, a British farce, and Reunion in Vienna with John Barrymore, Diana Wynyard and Frank Morgan.
The importance of this theatre lies in that it was the template for what came to be known as the standard Granada. Theodore Komisarjevsky decorated the interior of the theatre in Italian Renaissance style, which he had used earlier at the Phoenix Theatre. Other features of the Phoenix Theatre repeated and modified here include: the large main chandelier of the auditorium, however the dome above it at the Phoenix was flattened out here; panels of classical paintings found at the Phoenix were now present as a frieze at the cornice level; and the boxes seen at the Phoenix now became three decorative grilles.
Top & Bottom Right: The auditorium of the Phoenix Theatre with Frieze work of individual paintings
present at the Cornice and over the Proscenium Arch and Boxes
Left: The auditorium of the Granada Theatre Maidstone where the Frieze work is present
as one large painting over each grille and the Proscenium Arch.
Note the undulating rows in the Circle, almost the trademark of Cecil Audrey Massey
Left & Middle: The central chandelier of the auditorium of the Phoenix Theatre with dome
Right: The central chandelier of the Granada Theatre Maidstone with a flattened dome
(I am sorry that these photographs do not emphasis the depth of the dome at the Phoenix Theatre or the light fixture of the Granada Theatre too well – but better these than nothing!)
The theatre seated over 1,600 and was the largest cinema in Maidstone. Mr. Bernstein’s showmanship was clearly in evidence in the opening programme where the Britishness of the theatre was emphasised. As Allen Eyles states in his book, The Granada Theatres, the theatre was proclaimed as a monument to British materials bought with British Capital and handled by British workmen and that the only foreign items needed were fifteen tons of marble from Rome and Verona and five cork bases for the electric motors from Jerez in Spain.
Granada Theatre Maidstone
Top Left: as a Gala Bingo Club; Top & Bottom Right: as a Granada Social Club
Bottom Left: the auditorium; note the undulating balcony outline
Many of the theatre’s features were used in the template for later Granada Theatres,
some of which had appeared earlier in the interior design of The Phoenix Theatre
In September 1968, thanks to severe rain and flooding of the Granada Theatre Maidstone, the console was destroyed. Fortunately the pipe chambers were positioned high up in the side walls and were untouched by the water. In the same year, The Organ Society of Australia (Queensland) decided to purchase its own theatre pipe organ. As no suitable organ was available in Australia, the society went further afield and found the remains of the Christie at Maidstone, which they bought and had shipped to Brisbane. The pipe chambers arrived in January 1971 and were installed in the new Assembly Hall at the Kelvin Grove State High School once it was constructed. A console was found in Sydney, which had once been installed at the Empire Theatre, Dunedin, New Zealand and later at a private home. After the necessary rebuilding, restoration and reinstallation, the official inauguration of the organ took place on the 24th November, 1975 following 10,000 man-hours of work!
According to the society, the organ is still going strong, and to my ears, it sounds great! (Now isn’t this a great story?!)
Kelvin Grove State College, home of the ex-Granada Maidstone Christie Organ
Top Right: The Assembly Hall; Bottom Right: the organ console, which was originally from the
Empire Theatre, Dunedin, New Zealand and was photographed by Mr. Mike Gilles
The theatre closed for a short time in September 1968 as a result of the flooding. When it reopened, only the circle was in use. In April 1971, the theatre closed and underwent marked alteration: the stalls became a Granada Social Club while the circle and cafe were converted into two smaller cinemas. Later in 1974, the circle cinema was twinned. In 1989, the theatre was sold to The Cannon Group and later to various other companies. The three cinemas closed in April 1999 and continue to remain empty. The former stalls is still used as a Bingo Club, but it is now operated by the Gala Coral Group.
PART 10: STARTING A CIRCUIT