The Gaumont Palace Theatre
An eye-catching landmark at the end of Colmore Row, where the Wesleyan building now stands, for many Brummies the Gaumont was the place you visited for a treat. Initiallly launched as the Gaumont Palace Theatre with Ronald Colman in Raffles, on opening the Mercury announced that “8,000 electric lamps, fifty miles of electric wire and 60,000 feet of steel tubing” had been used in construction of the building. The Compton organ which emerged from beneath the stage was a particular attraction.
During the 60s the Gaumont pulled out all the stops to fight off the threat of television, including an extensive refurb and installing the largest screen in Europe to accommodate Cinerama. From May 1965 it showed The Sound of Music on 70mm for three years and three months, and in the 70s it was the place where many joined long queues down the side of the building for blockbusters like Star Wars and Jaws. It remained defiantly single-screen until its last screening in 1983 (Graham Chapman in Yellowbeard), and was finally knocked down in 1986.
“Birmingham can now boast the distinction of having the biggest cinema screen in the country – 95 ft. around the semicircle and 32 ft. high. Patrons will be able to take in a sweep of 146 degrees by barely rolling an eyeball.”
Colmore Circus, Steelhouse Lane, B4 6AR
Charles Smitton Plays the Gaumont Birmingham Compton organ in the mid-1950s.
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“This universal shocker will have its first Birmingham turn at the Gaumont Palaxe – if the Public Entertainments Committee does not think it too gruesome for local consumption. I understand that a deputation of city justices will attend the Steelhouse lane cinema on Monday morning for a private view of the picture […] Only people with strong nerves will be able to sit through the film without feeling horrified.”