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The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Old Kent Road Astoria

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Old Kent Road Astoria

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The Old Kent Road Astoria Policy

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Old Kent Road Astoria.The policy of the Old Kent Astoria will be exactly that which has proved so successful at our first Theatre - bringing a West End Entertainment, lock, stock and barrel, to the heart of South-East London, at South-East London prices.

It has been conclusively proved that there is no reason whatever why the suburbs and outlying districts should not have the same high class of entertainment as the West End of London. The same pictures, talking and silent, the same music, the same artistes for vaudeville are available, and what is more important - the same, even more, wholehearted appreciation, awaits them among the masses of the people.

The Theatre is one of the largest and most sumptuously furnished in London. Every new idea in theatre construction has been incorporated, and the result is a theatre which excels in every respect.

The programmes submitted will be equal to the Theatre, and the public of South-East London can rest assured that at the Old Kent Road Astoria they will find entertainment of equal merit to anything they could find in the West End of London.

In a word "Clean West End Entertainment, in most comfortable surroundings, at South-East London Prices." Arthur Segal, Director.

The Theatre's Architect

The Old Kent Road Astoria - From The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.

Edward A. Stone, F.S.I. Architect of the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.Most of the theatres in the West End of London are old, small, and uncomfortable, and generally uninviting, no matter what attraction is being presented. In recent years there has been a distinct endeavour to remedy this, and new theatres have been opened, while several more are in the almost completed stage and will he opened very shortly. The conditions applying to legitimate theatres also applied to cinema theatres, and in this direction, great advances have been made. The first real effort to provide a big super talking picture theatre, with accommodation for high-class vaudeville, was the erection of the Brixton Astoria, an atmospheric theatre, in which Mr. E. A. Stone, F.S.I., initiated an entirely new idea in cinema construction. The idea, or ideas, were a theatre with a big seating capacity on two floors only, a perfect stage with every possible appurtenance in which any West End production could be presented. Success was immediate and has been maintained.

Right - Edward A. Stone, F.S.I. Architect of the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.

The second theatre in the chain has now been completed in the Old Kent Road, and the building erected here will, in its turn, set a standard for similar theatres elsewhere. It has size, and it has everything else which will enable the management to present pictures, silent and talkie, vaudeville, revue, pantomime, or spectacle. The Old Kent Road Astoria is better equipped than many modern West End theatres, and certainly better in every way than the cinema theatres built in the early days of the industry.

Its position is a key one, for it is the pivot of an enormous residential district, where many thousands of London's industrialists have their homes. Just adjoining the Canal Bridge on the Old Kent Road, it is midway between the Elephant and New Cross Gate, and the services of trams and buses which have their stopping places outside its doors bring people from all directions. The Old Kent Road Astoria will serve many, many thousands of cinema and vaudeville lovers.

The Auditorium of the Old Kent Road Astoria - From The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.

In construction, the Theatre is ultra-modern. Its enormous seating accommodation is confined to two floors, access to which is easy, while numerous exits will enable it to be emptied in one minute. Although the stalls and balconies are so extensive, an uninterrupted view of the stage and screen is assured from every seat, while the acoustics will enable the merest whisper on the stage or from the talkie films loud speakers to be heard in every part of the auditorium.

A marvel of comfortable seating, the Old Kent Road Astoria at the same time presents other comforts not usually found in suburban or even West End theatres. There are spacious waiting rooms, a large foyer, beautifully decorated and furnished tea rooms, and every other comfort-amenity the most fastidious patron could desire. The same degree of comfort-perfection has been provided for the staff and artistes as for the patrons, and, on the whole, the Old Kent Road Astoria is everything a modern theatre should be.

The Builder of the Theatre

Horace R. Watt, Builder of the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.Heredity in trades and professions is common in this great City of London. Businesses pass from father to son, from generation to generation, and name and fame of certain firms have become part and parcel of the City's history. In the case of the builder of the Old Kent Road Astoria, Mr. Horace R. Watt is following his father's footsteps. Mr. James Watt has built some twenty or thirty cinemas all over the country, one as far North as Inverness, and include what is believed to be the first building to be erected in London solely for the exhibition of moving pictures.

Right - Horace R. Watt, Builder of the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.

Mr. Horace R. Watt, whose first big cinema contract this is, has done his work well, and shown that the skill and executive ability of his sire has been inherited to a useful purpose. The building of the Old Kent Road Astoria has been a task of very considerable magnitude - as a glance at the building will show, but the whole work, including the clearing of the site, has been accomplished in less than twelve months. In carrying out the work Mr. Watt has had great assistance from Mr. T. R. Somerford, A.R.I.B.A., chief assistant to Mr. E. A. Stone, the architect, and from Mr. Watts, the Clerk of Works, whose portraits are included in this page.

The Special Opening Programme for the Old Kent Road Astoria on the 10th of February 1930.

Above - The Special Opening Programme for the Old Kent Road Astoria on the 10th of February 1930.

The General Manager

Charles Penley, General Manager of the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.Charles Penley may truly be said to have been born in the entertainment business. His father, the late Mr. W. S. Penley, of Charley's Aunt fame, was one of the best-known lights of the theatre world in his day, and Charles Penley has never deserted the theatre business.

Right - Charles Penley, General Manager of the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.

As a manager, Mr. Penley has been honoured above most of his contemporaries, for on two occasions he has been commanded by His Majesty the King to provide cinema entertainment at Balmoral Castle, and on both occasions has received the highest praise for his achievements.

In managerial positions Mr. Penley has held many of the plums of his profession, but he is known to the biggest audience in the world, that of the B.B.C., by his introduction of broadcasting community singing from the Prince of Wales Theatre, Lewisham.

Astoria Personalities - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.In Lewisham, which is but a short distance from the Old Kent Road Astoria, Mr. Penley was particularly well-known, and his many activities earned for him a name which spread far beyond the boundaries of the borough. Many residents of the districts served by the Old Kent Road Astoria will be delighted to know that Mr. Penley is the gentleman who will be responsible for the selection and presentation of their future entertainment.

Right - Old Kent Road Astoria Personalities - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.

After vacating the managerial position at the Prince of Wales, Lewisham, Mr. Penley was in charge of the Astoria, Charing Cross Road, leaving that position to introduce talking pictures to Great Britain at the Piccadilly Theatre, and he is particularly proud of the honour of being the first theatre manager in England to introduce the talkies and Al Jolson to the great cinema public. From the Piccadilly, Mr. Penley moved to the Brixton Astoria, the first super-house in the chain now being built by the same company, of which the Old Kent Road Astoria is the second. Mr. Penley will be general manager of both houses, and his success at Brixton Astoria assures a further triumph at the Old Kent Road Astoria.

Machinery and Comfort

Major C. H. Bell, O.B.E. Consulting Engineer for the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.Very few Patrons sitting in a vast auditorium such as this Theatre possesses, really appreciate the energy required and the amount of machinery necessary in a Theatre, in order that they may witness the performance in comfort. In the Old Kent Road Astoria is installed one of the largest heating and ventilation plants yet incorporated in any modern Theatre. Over 3,000,000 cubic feet of air per hour is brought into the Theatre, and before being distributed, is washed and cleansed by means of special apparatus so as to provide not only a healthy atmosphere, but to maintain temperatures which will at all times be comfortable. It is necessary for this apparatus to be of such a design that on the coldest day in winter, the temperature can be raised to a normal one and maintained in this way, irrespective of whether the Theatre is packed to capacity or only partially full. Likewise in the summer time, it is essential to introduce air at a temperature which will assure comfort of the Patron.

Right - Major C. H. Bell, O.B.E. Consulting Engineer for the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.

Next to the climatic conditions created is the visual beauty produced by effective lighting. The decorative art loses a great deal of its beauty if it is not viewed in the correct light, but at the same time, this illumination must be of such a character as to produce even lighting throughout the Theatre without glare and anything that might affect or displease the eye, and in any way create a condition which will tend to prevent the Patron from concentrating on the performance.

It is often noticed that glaring lights in the auditorium so disturb the vision that the Patron is unable to view the picture until it has been on the screen for some minutes, the lighting of the picture and that in the auditorium being so contrasted. In this Theatre some 8,000 lamps are employed to provide all the colour and effect lighting for the stage and auditorium, and with this figure one will appreciate the amount of energy necessary to provide this illumination. The Theatre receives its current at 6,600 volts and has adopted the voltages now being made standard throughout the country and has, in fact, one of the most up-to-date electric installations in Great Britain.

The Directors of the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.The stage is equipped for the presentation of almost any kind of entertainment known. Old Kent Road Astoria could equally well put on grand opera at a few hours' notice, as they could the special presentations provided as part of their programmes. The Directors have provided for every form of entertainment known.

The projection booth is equipped with the very latest type of modern machinery known to science, and in this respect, is as up-to-date as any theatre in the world. The well-known Western Electric system of reproduction of talking pictures installed is considered, throughout the film world, as the perfection of talking picture apparatus.

Left - The Directors of the Old Kent Road Astoria - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.

The safety of patrons in a picture theatre is a topic which has been much in the public eye recently and in this respect this Theatre can claim to be the last word in safety-first equipment. The whole of the stage section is equipped with automatic sprinklers which operate without the introduction of the human element and the Safety Curtain installed is the largest and most formidable piece of machinery in any theatre in Great Britain. The projection booth where the films are stored and projected is separated from the public part of the building and it is, therefore, impossible for any breakdown that may occur to interfere in any way with the safe exit of the public. Nothing has been spared to make Old Kent Road Astoria one of the foremost Cinema Theatres in the country.

The Double Console Compton Organ

One of the Consoles of the Old Kent Road Astoria Organ - - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.The Double Console British Organ installed in the Old Kent Road Astoria has been made and designed by the John Compton Organ Co., of Chiswick, and is British to the core. This is the second organ of this class the firm have built, but Compton Organs are to be found in a great many British and foreign cinemas, and the fame of the builders extends all over the world.

Right - One of the Consoles of the Old Kent Road Astoria Organ - - From the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Theatre.

The Two-Console Grand Organ is a mighty instrument, and it can reproduce in perfection almost every sound imaginable, and for the accompaniment of moving pictures, whether solo or with an orchestra, it cannot be surpassed.

The instrument can reproduce the music of a grand piano, a xylophone, a set of tuned sleigh bells, a special carillon of beautiful tone, and the full effect large tubular bells. Other units include bass drum, snare drum, tom-tom, castanets, tambourine, cymbals and triangle.

The Full Programme

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Above - The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Astoria Theatre Old Kent Road, 10th February 1930.

 

The articles and their accompanying images on this page are from the Souvenir Programme for the opening of the Old Kent Road Astoria on the 10th of February 1930.

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