The Apollo Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, Westminster, London
Formerly - The New Victoria Theatre
Above - The Apollo Victoria during the run of 'Wicked' in October 2006.
The Apollo Victoria Theatre was designed by E. Wamsley Lewis and constructed in 1930 for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres, who were part of Gaumont British. The Theatre was designed as a Super Cinema with stage facilities and was called the New Victoria on its opening on the 15th of October 1930 with the film 'Old English' and a stage show called 'Hoop-La'. The auditorium was designed in the art deco style and lavishly decorated in an underwater theme with an extravaganza of scallops around a huge dome.
Above - A Seating Plan for the Apollo Victoria Theatre, probably 1970s
As well as film presentations the Theatre did begin life by staging large live shows too but after only a month this was given up in favour of Cinema. However, it did play host to Big Band concerts and smaller scale live acts as well during its first decade.
The Theatre is unusual in that it occupies a site that gives it two front entrances and two almost identical facades, one on Wilton Street, the other on Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Right - The Apollo Victoria during the run of 'Wicked' in October 2006. Photo M.L.
Unusually for a Cinema this one was saved from the property developers in the 1950s who were willing to sacrifice just about anything for new building projects and new money, by the fact that it was a Theatre too.
With its large stage and plenty of dressing rooms the building was spruced up in 1958 and began playing host to Ballet and Live Shows, as well as Film.
The Theatre had incredible success when it became home to the hit show 'Starlight Express' which opened in 1984 and was to run for a staggering 18 years.
John Earle writes: 'After many years of being blotted
out by alterations and general clutter from a series of big musicals,
the interior has recently enjoyed the first phase of a programme of
painstaking restoration. It is already revealed as one of the most spectacular
Art Deco interiors in Britain and the process will continue as breaks
occur (somewhat rarely!) between productions. The original 'streamlined
effect' lighting on the Wilton Road front is also being reinstated.
It is worth buying a ticket for 'Wicked' to see the magical auditorium
lighting, not seen for a generation or so!' - John Earl.
This is probably one of the best surviving examples of a 1930s Super Cinema in the Country and is Grade II Listed. The Apollo Victoria was bought by The Ambassador Theatre Group in November 2009 and you may like to visit their own Website for the Theatre here.
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