44 Holmeside Sunderland SR1 3JE
Architects: Frederick Evans, Edwin Sheridan Gray
Black’s Regal Theatre was built on the site of the Olympia Exhibition Hall and Pleasuredrome 1897-1910 and it was built for the northern independent Black’s circuit. It opened on 28th March 1932 with Jessie Matthews in Out of the Blue.
The theatre was equipped with a Compton three manual, nine ranks theatre organ which had an Art Deco style console on a lift.
This was opened by organist J Arnold Eagle. The policy of the theatre for many years was pictures and variety and it had a fifty seven feet wide proscenium, the stage was forty feet deep and there were ten dressing rooms. Other facilities included a cafe and roller rink.
In 1955 the Black’s circuit was taken over by the Rank Organisation and the Regal was re-named Odeon from 28th November 1955. It was divided into a three screen cinema in 1975 with 1,200 seats in the former circle and two 150 seat screens in the rear stalls.
On 28th March 1982 a special 50th Anniversary concert was given by Phil Kelsall on the Compton organ. Three months later, on 26th June 1982 the Odeon was closed with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Star Wars & The Empire Strikes Back, Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions.
The building was boarded up and abandonded for a long period of time.
However it was to re-open as a Top Rank Bingo Club and remains in use today as a Mecca Bingo Club. The sub-division of the auditorium has been removed. In July 2009, it was announced that the building and the entire block had been the subject of a compulsory purchase order.
I happened by the other day – attracted by the distinctive Deco tower.
And the building’s amazing mass.
I walked around the corner to find the side entrance – as the original lobby is no longer in use.
I was ever so fortunate to happen upon a convivial cleaner, who kindly invited me inside the auditorium.
Much of the interior detail is intact though the balcony was no longer in use.
On exiting, I noticed the ghost of the Regal.
Though the exterior is a pale shadow of its former self, the building is still intact and in use.
A close neighbour is the what was the Ritz latterly ABC Cinema.
Architects: William Riddell Glen
Opened on 1st March 1937 with Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers in Swing Time, the Ritz Cinema was built by the Union Cinemas chain. They were soon taken over by Associated British Cinemas – ABC. It was lavishly fitted with deep pile carpets and chandeliers.
In 1961 it was re-named ABC. It was converted into a two screen cinema from July/August 1974 when the former circle became a 534 seat screen and the front stalls a second screen seating 212. The rear stalls area was converted into a Painted Wagon pub. Sadly the conversion destroyed much of the original interior of the auditorium. It was later taken over by the Cannon Cinemas group, but later went back to the ABC name.
Sadly it closed on 29th April 1999, the last of Sunderland’s major cinemas.
It has recently reopened as The Point a nightclub which has four dance floors and has now completely lost all features of its cinematic past.
Get y’self pumped!