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The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Davis Theatre Croydon - Tuesday December 18th 1928

A Sketch of the Davis Theatre from the Theatre's opening souvenir programme on the 18th of December 1928

Above - A Sketch of the Davis Theatre from the Theatre's opening souvenir programme on the 18th of December 1928

 

The Romance of the Davis Family

PIONEERS OF HIGH-CLASS CINEMA ENTERTAINMENT

The cover of the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.PIONEERS of enterprise in the provision of high-class cinema entertainment, Mr. and Mrs. Israel Davis and their four sons, known throughout the cinema industry as the Davis Family, can look upon this - their tenth theatre - as the embodiment of all their ideals.

Mr and Mrs Israel Davis

Above - Mr and Mrs Israel Davis.

Since 1910 the Davis Family has been engaged in the erection of picture theatres and the provision of high-class cinema entertainment for the people.

Right - The cover of the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

This Croydon Theatre incorporates all that a vast experience has indicated as being necessary in catering for the needs of the entertainment public. It is the result of experience gained not only in this country, but in America, the land of big things, and the Davis Family believes that it has exceeded anything yet attempted in this country, in planning, size, style and convenience.

 

The first page of the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.The "keynote" of the work of the Davis Family has always been to endeavour to raise the standard of the cinema. Their Croydon Theatre stands as their triumphant achievement, and creates an individual record in the cinematograph industry. The master minds behind this great theatre, as in all the Davis enterprises, have been Mr. and Mrs. Israel Davis, whose contribution to the London entertainment world can scarcely be appraised at its real value.

In the London area the title "Pavilion" has been associated with Davis' enterprises since the erection of the Highgate Pavilion, in 1910 and from then till 1914 Pavilions were in succession erected at Clapham, Brixton, Putney, Shaftesbury Avenue, Edgware Road, Marble Arch and Lavender Hill ; the last two being erected simultaneously.

Left - The first page of the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The Marble Arch Pavilion marked the greatest advance yet made in picture theatre construction. Upon its completion in May, 1914, it stood as one of the finest theatres in the world and to-day continues to be one of the leading theatres in the country.

The outbreak of war checked further development of the Davis plans and it was not until 1921 that the removal of post war building restrictions enabled a start to be made upon a long cherished scheme at Shepherd's Bush, years after its conception.

His Worship the Mayor of Croydon (Mr. Alderman W. J. Chamberlain, J. P.) - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.By this time America - freed for years to develop vast cinema plans - had taken the lead in the provision of better theatres. In the planning of the new Pavilion the Davis Family naturally incorporated valuable experience gained in America, and the new Theatre when opened in 1923 exceeded in capacity and entertainment equipment anything hitherto provided.

No secret is revealed in stating that the cinema industry regarded the erection of a theatre accommodating 3,000 persons as a doubtful proposition. The Davis Family, it was held, had made an error. Within six months of its opening the theatre, playing to an average of 25,000 people a week, had become an outstanding success and revealed to the trade the future of the cinema.

Right - His Worship the Mayor of Croydon (Mr. Alderman W. J. Chamberlain, J. P.) - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

In May, 1927, the Davis Circuit was incorporated in the great Gaumont-British Picture Corporation Ltd., which now controls over 200 theatres. Some five months prior to this, the Croydon venture had been planned, the locale having been suggested by Mr. Sydney Drage. Although Mr. Israel Davis had realised his other cinema interests, he proceeded - with Gaumont-British and Messrs. Drage as interested parties - to complete the most ambitious of his undertakings.

 

Details of the Gala Performance for the opening of the Davis Theatre, Croydon on Tuesday the 18th of December 1928.The site had been acquired from the Croydon Corporation in January, but excavation was not begun until October, 1927, fourteen months ago.

To-day the super-cinema has become the outstanding factor in the lives of the people. The film industry no longer holds doubts regarding the desirability of a theatre seating between three and four thousand, when situated in such an important centre as Croydon. But it is interesting to recall that when the Marble Arch Pavilion was conceived in 1912, as in the case of Shepherd's Bush Pavilion, Mr. Davis was subjected to strong adverse criticism from the trade.

Left - Details of the Gala Performance for the opening of the Davis Theatre, Croydon on Tuesday the 18th of December 1928. On the Bill were Alex Taylor at the Organ, Gaumont Graphic, the Davis Theatre Symphony Orchestra, Marronne and Lacosta and Company, and Emil James in the film 'The Last Command'.

Automaticket Ltd Advertisement"What chance has a cinema in Mayfair?" he was asked. "Whom do you expect to attract other than footmen and maids from that exclusive district?"

His reply was characteristic: "Who will come? Why, the King and Queen."

It was characteristic, too, that his prophesy was fulfilled. The Marble Arch Pavilion, with which the name of the Davis Family will always be associated, is able to claim that it is the only Picture Theatre which has been publicly honoured by His Majesty the King on more than one occasion (See image below).

 

Their Majesties the King and Queen at the Marble Arch Pavilion, November 10th, 1924, being the occasion of Their Majesties first public visit to a cinema - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Above - Their Majesties the King and Queen at the Marble Arch Pavilion, November 10th, 1924, being the occasion of Their Majesties first public visit to a cinema - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

 

Lt. - Col. A. C. Bromhead, C.B.E.

Chairman - Gaumont-British Picture Corporation Ltd. and its Allied Companies

CHAIRMAN - DAVIS' THEATRE (CROYDON) LTD.

Lt.- Col. A. C. Bromhead, C.B. E.DAVIS' THEATRE Ltd. is happy in having as its Chairman, Lt.- Col. A. C. Bromhead, C.B. E., (shown right) the most brilliant figure in the cinema industry, and also in having his brother, Mr. Reginald Bromhead (shown below left), Managing Director of Gaumont-British Picture Corporation, Ltd., on its board.

Mr. Reginald Bromhead F. C.  A.Thirty years ago Mr. Bromhead, as he then was, opened for business at No. 25, Cecil Court, London. From the first days there was steady and continuous growth. The history of the Gaumont Company since those days is that of the whole industry. In 1922 Lt. - Col. Bromhead and Mr. Reginald Bromhead, in association with Messrs. Ostrer Brothers, acquired M. Gaumont's holding and the Company became entirely British owned.

The need for combined action in recovering the ground lost by the war's intervention was recognised, and in 1927 an amalgamation was effected with two other British firms well known for the high quality of their productions - W. and F. Film Service, Ltd., controlling Gainsborough Pictures, and Ideal Films, Ltd.

 

Advertisements for the Cast Iron Company and Garton & Thorne Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.Acquisition of theatre interests was also effected at this time, and Gaumont-British Picture Corporation was formed, combining the Gaumont Company, Ltd., W. and F. Film Service, Ltd., Ideal Films, Ltd., and twenty-one theatres, including the Davis Circuit, and the Biocolour Circuit with theatres throughout the country.

This move was followed in 1928 by still greater theatre acquisitions, and the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation now has controlling interests in Denman Picture Houses, Ltd., and General Theatres, Ltd., the combined capital being well over ten million pounds. Approximately three thousand employees are on the Corporation's books, while the theatres controlled number more than two hundred.

An advertisement for George Pixton & Co., Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.Right - Advertisements for the Cast Iron Company and Garton & Thorne Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Mr. R. C. Bromhead's first association with the Gaumont Company, Ltd., was in 1903. During the war and in the absence of Lt. - Col. Bromhead, he took over the entire management.

Left - An advertisement for George Pixton & Co., Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Mr. Bromhead is one of the most popular and far-sighted Past Presidents of the Kinematograph Renters' Society. He was appointed Managing Director of the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation, the activities of which range from film production to the control of nearly 200 theatres. The financial side of the business thus constitutes a highly intricate and responsible task which, however, presents no terrors to Mr. Reginald Bromhead whose genius and wide experience of this commercial phase is unrivaled in the industry.

It is interesting to note that Davis' Theatre, Croydon, has the valuable assistance of Gaumont-British Film Booking Department as the medium through which their films will be booked.

 

Why Croydon was selected

CroydonThe selection of Croydon as the town for the erection of the giant Davis' Theatre was in consequence of its outstanding importance as a self-contained County Borough and as being the centre of a district the population of which exceeds half a million.

In addition to the excellent transport facilities which Croydon possesses, one of the deciding factors in its selection was the fact that it has a large "circulating" population. The borough is also sufficiently distant from the entertainment centre of London to render a first-class picture theatre, conducted on modern and progressive lines, attractive to the locality. Croydon was, therefore, considered to be an ideal situation for the erection of a palatial theatre offering such remarkable facilities as this theatre undoubtedly does.

Into the making, of the Davis' Theatre, as will be subsequently detailed, has been built every device that makes for comfort and excellence of programme, and there is sufficient "waiting" accommodation to obviate the necessity of queues.

Croydon is fortunate in the fact that it is the centre of a district suitable for the erection of a picture theatre, the capacity of which will enable the proprietors to give their patrons exceptional value in entertainment.

 

Description of the Theatre

The Auditorium of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Theatre, 18th of December 1928.

Above - The Auditorium of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Theatre, 18th of December 1928.

 

THERE is no theatre quite like the Davis Theatre. Here a conscientious effort has been made at collaboration between the experts representing the multiple factors that enter into the design and construction of a theatre which contains every known means of improving the presentation of pictures, and provides modern facilities for a "better entertainment."

The interior decorations deviate considerably from the stereotyped plasterwork so often met with even in the most recently erected theatres. Drawing inspiration from the principles of modern French decorative work in plaster, furniture and metal, the architect has designed a scheme which is entirely modern and yet imbued with something of the spirit of ancient art.

Having regard to the enormous areas to be covered the plasterwork is essentially simple in its lines and planes - yet nowhere is there any sense of meanness. To avoid bad acoustics advantage has been taken of textural wall surfaces, and the balconies are planned so as not to overhang the stalls area too far.

The massive girder, 109 feet span, 16½ feet deep, and weighing over 50 tons, which supports both the mezzanine and the balcony. It took a month to assemble and contains 3,500 rivets - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Above - The massive girder, 109 feet span, 16½ feet deep, and weighing over 50 tons, which supports both the mezzanine and the balcony. It took a month to assemble and contains 3,500 rivets - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The entrance to the theatre is from the High Street. The facade, designed in Portland stone and patent impervious stone, is of modern classical tendency with a centrally grouped fenestration in gilded cast iron.

A fine modern type of wrought iron and glass canopy is erected over the wrought iron entrance doors. These latter are glazed with specially designed engraved French glass and are a special feature of a very dignified exterior.

A noticeable feature of the building is its general accessibility and remarkable simple lay-out. Everywhere there is a sense of real spaciousness and dignity.

The administration offices are on the lower level of the balcony and accommodation is provided for board room, manager's and secretary's offices, clerks' office, waiting hall, addressograph and bill rooms. The staff personnel have not been neglected. There are large rooms for men and women, cloakrooms and kitchens and a dining hall, and office for the supervisor.

On the left-hand side of the entrance there is a chic little bon-bon shop with access to the advance booking office, and the restaurant on the mezzanine floor. Fitted up with Parisian elegance, this little shop should quickly become famous in the locality.

 

Into the Theatre

The Mezzanine Floor of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Theatre,18th of December 1928.

Above - The Mezzanine Floor of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Theatre,18th of December 1928.

The Beautifully coloured mosaic Rotunda pavement - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.THE grand stairs to the mezzanine and balcony face the entrance, while a further foyer leads into the rear of the stalls. Here is situated the passenger lift capable of carrying 10 persons, and the ground floor tea service.

A separate staircase leads to the mezzanine foyer, which is 80 feet by 35 feet wide, decorated in the softest of greens, oxydised silver, black and copper. In the centre there is a beautifully designed electric "coal-fire" set in gold mosaic. There is a ladies' cosmetic room on this level.

Right - The Beautifully coloured mosaic Rotunda pavement - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

An advertisement for Grace & Marsh Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.The foyer leads into the mezzanine balcony. Fitted up with the most modern equipment this cafe should be a great attraction to Croydon. The kitchen is run by electricity, even the washing of the crockery being automatic. Mr. Edward Davis (shown below right) has paid very special attention to the multitudinous details concerned with the management of the theatre generally, but especially to everything concerning the comfort and convenience of patrons or which makes for the efficient running of the business.

Mr. Edward Davis Left - An advertisement for Grace & Marsh Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The balcony over the mezzanine is approached by the main stairs which lead to the balcony foyer, so that each part of the house is provided with ample waiting accommodation. Access to the balcony seats is through three "dormitories" leading off the foyer.

Right - Mr. Edward Davis.

Over the rotunda is the tea-balcony and dance floor, with silver finished railings of wrought iron and the whole is supported by two tiers of fourteen elegant columns carrying a beautiful dome lighted by a glazed centre of stained leaded glass. The ensemble is a delightfully effective piece of architecture.

 

The Comfort of the Patrons

The Cafe - Restaurant showing a section of the Dance Floor in the foreground - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Above - The Cafe - Restaurant showing a section of the Dance Floor in the foreground - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

An advertisement for Lift & Engineering Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.A GREAT deal of attention has been devoted throughout to the comfort of the patrons. The vestibule with pay-boxes on each side leads into the rotunda hall, with its extraordinarily fine marble and mosaic floor. This is a waiting foyer 60 feet in diameter with central pay-office, cloakrooms, kiosks, attendants' rooms and specially designed arrangements for publicity.

Right - An advertisement for Lift & Engineering Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

An advertisement for Jeffreys Warming and Ventilation - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.Attendants' seats, each with telephone, are arranged near the exits at each level, the seats being set in alcoves to avoid obstructing the gangways.

Intercommunicating telephones and synchronised clocks are distributed about the building, also electric direction signs and accommodation indicators.

Left - An advertisement for Jeffreys Warming and Ventilation - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The cleaning of the theatre is done by a special vacuum suction plant in the basement with pipes let into the walls and connections let into the skirtings.

The architects' problem was to obtain the maximum seating capacity from the site while arranging the exits and accessory buildings to the best possible advantage.

 

Illumination and Decoration

The Proscenium Window - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.IN the lighting, too, there is evidence that collaboration between architect and engineer, which is so essential to a successful scheme in which the effects obtained by lighting as a corollary to decoration, is fully realised.

The proscenium cove with its extraordinary phosphorescent glow, the silver dome, and the sides of the splay walls, have been worked out with due regard to geometry and the science of optics, hence the effect is obtained without apparent cause and a wonderful asset to the colour scheme of the interior is the result.

Right - The Proscenium Window - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Architecturally the treatment of the side proscenium walls is a happy composition of distinctive detail, sculpture, colour and light. The grouping is massive - yet elegant - the classic columns being coated with silver leaf and given an oxydised finish.

Stuart Davis of the Film Booking Department, Gaumont British Picture Corporation, Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.To obtain the correct reflecting surface for the main dome (which is 50 feet in diameter) broken granite as used in road metalling was laid on a bench and cast in gelatine.

From this the fibrous plasterwork was reproduced. The illuminated windows in wrought iron, lead and Flemish glass and the French engraved glass fittings, all combine in harmony.

Left - Stuart Davis of the Film Booking Department, Gaumont British Picture Corporation, Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Particularly interesting is the manner in which the colourings have been applied. The walls have been treated with brush plaster giving a rough-cast sort of effect worked into patterns upon which metallic paints have been applied. These were then treated with oil-colour glaze and wiped off. These effects are extremely useful, but not easily obtained. Time after time colours were tried out - only to be washed out - and then done over again.

Mr. N. Doniger, general manager for the Company during the erection of the theatre - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.Greys, subdued blues, violets and jade were mostly used on a background of aluminium. The effect is delightfully indefinite and atmospheric. When it is remembered that these colours have to be put on, starting at the ceiling, before the walls are even plastered, one can readily imagine the anxiety and difficulties which attend this sort of craftsmanship.

Again the lighting and draperies and colouring of the furnishings have all to be borne in mind from the application of the first brushful of paint to the last finishing touches.

Right - Mr. N. Doniger, general manager for the Company during the erection of the theatre - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The proscenium pelmet and the tableaux curtains (which slide, rise and festoon) are of heavy silk velour of the softest green, a daring and entirely successful choice; while the fireproof curtain is decorated and adapted to be used as a screen during the setting of the stage.

 

The Stage, Dressing Rooms and Offices

A view giving an idea of the massiveness of the steelwork supporting the roof and balconies. 500 tons were used - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Above - A view giving an idea of the massiveness of the steelwork supporting the roof and balconies. 500 tons were used - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

An advertisement for London and Wales Steel Construction Co., Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.THE importance of the various subsidiary parts of a modern picture theatre is not generally realised. The planning nowadays has to provide for all the usual requirements of the legitimate theatre and much more. The Davis' Theatre has a stage of about 3,000 feet super with a height to the grid of 60 feet.

Flies are arranged on both sides as well as an electrician's gallery and lime perch and control bridge. All the scenery is counterweighted on ball-bearing sheaves, so that it can be "flown" automatically and operated from the stage itself.

Advertisements for Troughton & Young and British International Pictures Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.Right - An advertisement for London and Wales Steel Construction Co., Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The stage manager, musical director, chief electrician and organist have offices near the stage, and there are three floors of dressing rooms, ballet room and bath rooms, as well as a miniature cinema complete with its own projection chamber for rehearsal purposes.

Left - Advertisements for Troughton & Young and British International Pictures Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

A band room, music library and stores, caretaker's flat, carpenter's shop, scene dock, oil-tank chambers, generator house, transformer house, stand-by lighting engine room, plenum chamber and boiler house occupy a large proportion of the site.

 

Ventilation

IMMENSE ducts under the whole of the stalls floors are provided for the extraction of vitiated air. After the fresh air has been percolated through the auditorium from grilles in the ceilings it is extracted under the seats and through the dadoes - thus 150 tons of fresh air per hour is blown slowly through the ducts. The air is cleared of 98 per cent of solid impurities, warmed and humidified before it enters. In the summer time cool washed air is wafted in, but very slowly so that there can be no possibility of draughts arising. This plenum system of heating and ventilation is the most perfect yet devised and altogether cost over £10,000.

The boilers are oil-fired, and storage tanks of 10 tons liquid contents are built into underground chambers, giving sufficient for two weeks' running. The heating is controlled with long distance thermometers fixed in various parts of the building. The foyers, etc., are heated with radiators and the organ chamber is electrically heated.

A Sketch of the entrance doors at the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Above - A Sketch of the entrance doors at the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Projection and Electric Supply

THE projection chamber contains Gaumont Eclipse projectors. This with the rewinding room, repair shop, electricians' room, colour lighting and dimmer control chambers are situated in the mezzanine level with direct exits to the street on both sides of the house. This position gives absolutely perfect projection.

As may be imagined the electrical installation generally in this theatre was an extremely complicated and difficult piece of work - ably carried out under Mr. Basil Davis' personal supervision.

The current is obtained from the local supply company and secondary lighting plant is installed on the premises, two Crossley oil engines being used for this purpose. Newton's generators are used for the projectors.

 

Architect and Engineer

A photograph of the Theatre Architect Bertie Crewe - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928. BORN in 1887, an Ulsterman, son of a barrister, Mr. Robert Cromie was articled in London in 1904.

He entered the office of Mr. Bertie Crewe in 1909, and during his term as assistant literally burnt the candle of study at both ends.

He is a Fellow of The Royal Institute of British Architects, and a contributor to the technical press.

Right - A photograph of the Theatre Architect Bertie Crewe - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

In 1914 Mr. Cromie enlisted, served with the Royal Engineers in France, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

In the decorative side of Architecture he has strong leanings towards France; considers America still has a lot to learn; greatly admires the breadth of Italian Renaissance, but considers England the home of restraint and dignity. Mr. Cromie has great hopes for the Theatre work of this country, which he longs to see "elevated to the monumental plane of Architecture.

He has gained, over a period of some twenty years, an exceptional experience, having been engaged solely on entertainment buildings all over the country, including, the reconstruction of Drury Lane Theatre.

No form of building work is so intricate, none is so replete with every conceivable complication of planning, design, equipment and decoration as theatre Architecture, and Mr. Cromie's ability to handle the requirements of a large modern Cinema have been highly commended. Mr. Davis was quick to appreciate in him an architect who possesses to a marked degree that peculiar propensity for grasping the possibilities of a site so essential to successful accomplishment. That he has produced in the Croydon Theatre, a monument stamped with personality none can deny. There is something distinctive about the whole building - a certain grandeur not always associated with theatres - permeates the planning and general lines. There is no hall in England in which there is such an atmosphere of spaciousness and the essential quality of simplicity - largely attributable to the extraordinarily harmonious handling of the decorations.

Mr. 'Basil Davis, Grad. I.E.E. Chief engineer for Gaumont-British and allied theatres - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928. To criticise any work of art is easy - nothing entirely pleases everybody. But in this theatre there is almost a powerful sense of restfulness. To entirely deviate from the ordinary is difficult. To have done so with such results is an achievement.

The architect was assisted in the design of the theatre by Mr. Basil Davis, Grad. I.E.E., (shown left) chief engineer for Gaumont-British and allied theatres. Mr. Davis has had more cinematograph engineering experience than any other man in the British Isles, having made the schemes for 25 large theatres in England, including Marble Arch and Shepherd's Bush Pavilions.

Left - Mr. 'Basil Davis, Grad. I.E.E. Chief engineer for Gaumont-British and allied theatres - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

In order to try to make Davis' Theatre different from and more advanced than any other, he last year travelled the whole of the United States, visiting every theatre of note to collect data.

Mr. Davis is at present engaged on technical schemes for six super theatres in the London area.

As the planning of the modern super-cinema is no longer the prerogative of the architect, the evolution of the picture theatre and the entertainment it presents is now along the lines of engineering technique.

Mr. Basil Davis' experience proved invaluable in the designing of this theatre, into which many original ideas were incorporated. Continual and hearty co-operation between himself and Mr. Cromie has resulted in a perfect picture theatre.

The lighting system, the ventilating scheme and the machine installations were installed to Mr. Davis' requirements, and the building of the organ followed a pet idea of his. He holds, after much experimentation with the placing of the organ chamber, that the organ should be built in one chamber rather than being split up. It should be totally enclosed in a sound-proof chamber, with shutters, and should be located immediately over the proscenium arch, the sound being brought out through a grille in the arch by means of a curved duct.

The electrical scheme of the Davis' Theatre is as near ideal as can at present be attained. There are so many novel ideas that it will probably be some time before these are thoroughly understood by the resident mechanics of the theatre and the full benefit obtained.

 

At the Organ
Mr. Alexander Ferguson Taylor

Alexander Ferguson Taylor at the Compton Organ of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928. FOR a mighty organ a mighty organist. Mr. Alex. Taylor comes to the Davis' Theatre with a reputation made in two Continents. Moreover, he is a Britisher - who has been acclaimed in the States and has been brought back to England to preside at an organ which he regards as the finest he has ever seen.

Born in Glasgow in November, 1898, Mr. Taylor began his studies under his father, who was one of the leading solo violinists of Scotland and representative for the London College of Music. At the age of nine Mr. Taylor won the open scholarship for London, offered under the auspices of the Glasgow Athenaeum of Fine Arts, and entered on several years of study of both piano and organ in preparation for the concert platform.

Right - Alexander Ferguson Taylor at the Compton Organ of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

Prior to the war he entered the Royal Naval School of Music, taking up the study of the clarionet to gain orchestral experience. At the outbreak of the war he was attached to H.M.S. Cornwallis and was aboard when that vessel was sunk ninety miles off Malta. With a handful of survivors he was rescued.

Having gained experience after the war he went to the States and was appointed organist at the Million Dollar Grand Theatre, Pittsburgh, then followed his appointment as musical director at Zaring's Egyptian, Indianapolis. Great Lakes Theatre, Buffalo, next claimed him, then on to Shea's Theatre, Buffalo, as solo organist. Later he became "ace" organist to the Stanley Circuit's big theatre in Pittsburgh. From this position Mr. Taylor was brought back to England by the Davis' Theatre.

Mr. Taylor's forte is "playing to pictures," and he is looking forward to the Compton organ at Croydon which he said appeared to him to be a marvellous instrument for solo work. English organ builders are famed for the tonal qualities of their instruments and from the super Compton organ at which he will preside many fine effects can be obtained.

Discussing synchronisation Mr. Taylor said:- "I believe myself that the modern organ, with its wonderfully wide range of sound, will be found to be the ideal instrument for synchronisation, because it is entirely under the control of one man, who has not to communicate his ideas to a large number of musicians, and get their response. In the States it has been found that cinema audiences prefer the lighter music to be performed on the organ, leaving to the orchestra the interpretation of the heavier classical pieces. The cinema organist, in cueing his music, must sometimes take liberties with a theme, giving it a different tempo, and he must also keep his music melodic."

 

The Great Compton Organ

Details of the Compton Organ installed at the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928. THE enormous success of the various super theatres built by the Davis Family has undoubtedly been due to their extraordinary faculty for correctly gauging years ahead the capacity of the public for entertainment. A striking example of this was seen some five and a half years ago at Shepherd's Bush Pavilion, a theatre which still holds its own even in these days when super theatres are the rule rather than the exception, and which, as practically a pioneer effort, was beyond praise.

In the building of theatres therefore the Davis Family may be said to combine a sound judgment with great creative capacity and a determination to offer nothing but the best to their almost countless patrons.

Right - Details of the Compton Organ installed at the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

In this great Croydon Theatre, the owners, architects, and contractors have combined to erect a veritable palace of entertainment. It is obvious therefore, that in being chosen as builders of an organ for so magnificent a theatre the John Compton Organ Company have reason to be congratulated, this more so as this order was given after years of experience with the firm's instruments. The organ is a great four-manual instrument.

Its many thousands of pipes and complete range of percussion effects are located in specially designed chambers over the proscenium and their tone enters the theatre through a generous grille which is the entire width of the theatre. The chambers were designed by Mr. John Compton, and are unique in that the tone is reflected into the theatre from a specially prepared resonance chamber outside the four main organ rooms. The purpose of this bold departure from the usual practice is to ensure the perfect diffusion of the tones of the organ so that no individual department shall obviously betray its location, to assist the perfect blend of an almost endless range of tone colours, and to allow the production of almost overwhelming power of effect with the utmost purity of tone.

The organ itself is a masterpiece of scientific design, engineering skill, and tonal completeness. Its mechanism is entirely electric, and contains some two hundred miles of insulated wire, several thousand electric magnets, and approximately twelve thousand contacts of specially wrought precious metal. A 15-h.p. electric motor is required to provide the carefully filtered air for this monster, consumed at the rate of five thousand cubic feet per minute.

 

Some Builder's Figures

Mr. A. N. Grace of Grace & Marsh, Ltd, Builders of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928. Europe's largest cinema theatre has just been completed in the record time of thirteen months. The actual working time, after allowing for delays due to stress of weather, brings the time down to 11½ months which is 1½ months ahead of the contract time and makes the success of the builders, Messrs. Grace & Marsh, Ltd., a great and noteworthy achievement.

Right - Mr. A. N. Grace of Grace & Marsh, Ltd, Builders of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The theatre covers an area of 35,000 feet and is 76 feet high from floor to roof. The flat concrete roof covers an area of 16,750 feet.

Before commencing the bulk excavations, and super-structure, it was necessary to secure by underpinning the adjoining property on three sides for a length of 620 feet and an average depth of 18 feet.

28,550 cubic yards of earth were excavated, 18,000 cubic yards of which were dug and loaded into carts by a mechanical digger driven by petrol. This latter amount was executed in seven weeks, or, at the rate of 2,570 cubic yards per week.

Over 2½ million bricks, 960 tons of cement, 3,150 yards of ballast and 1,960 yards of sand, were used in the construction, whilst 50,500 feet run of steel tubular scaffolding was erected in the auditorium for decorative work, etc.

The air ducts in the main roof consumed 52,000 feet run of timber of various sizes, representing 3,300 cubic feet. The whole of this timber was made fireproof with 15,500 square feet of fireproof covering.

38,000 feet run of floor fillets and 120,000 feet run of flooring have been laid and over 500 tons of steel used in the main girders and roof trums.

The whole of the woodwork and joinery was made in the contractors' works at Waddon as well as 4,000 reinforced concrete slabs and risers for the balconies and over 500 artificial steps and 350 concrete lintols.

Therefore, the whole of the work except that of the specialists was done by local labour and 290 men were employed daily, and it is noteworthy that the contract was carried out without resorting to night work or week-end work, and also without one serious accident.

During the carrying out of the contract, the firm celebrated its 25th anniversary by inviting the whole of its employees to an outing at Southsea and the Isle of Wight.

This firm recently erected the headquarters of the Society of Friends in Euston Road, which building won the Royal Institute of British Architects' medal for 1926.

 

The Electrical Installation

A Corner of the Balcony of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928. THE electrical installation has been carried out to the design of Mr. Basil Davis, Grad. I.E.E., and the following details give the general outline of the work.

The supply is taken from the Croydon Corporation who feed into their high tension room at 2,000 volts and transform down by means of two 200 K.W. transformers to 230 volt single phase for all supply to the building.

The general auditorium lighting, known as "Daylight," from the colour chosen, is controlled here by motor driven push button dimmers and the coloured lighting in red, blue and green is also actuated from this room where 15 sets of dimmers are fixed.

Right - A Corner of the Balcony of the Davis Theatre, Croydon - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

These sets - five in all for each colour - control respectively the colour lighting in proscenium arch, proscenium flutings left, proscenium flutings right, large dome, and small domes, and pendant fittings. Thus an independent effect formed by any combination of three colours can be set up at each or any of these positions.

Additionally to the auditorium, general and effect lighting, "maintained" and "secondary" systems have been installed.

The stage switchboard is of the dead front type and controls the battens, float, dips, and arena with master control for each colour, together with a black out pilot switch.

For exterior lighting 18 flood lights each of 500 watts are employed while the marquise is illuminated by means of 150-20 watt and 100-6o watt opal lamps.

Provision is made for electric cooking in the tea rooms, a 50 K.W. main having been laid, and it is intended to use electrical cooking apparatus throughout.

Here are a few interesting facts of the electrical installation. There are 6,000 lamp-points in the building. The total electrical load will reach 200,000 watts. Over 35 miles of electric cable have been used, the size ranging from the thinness of a hair to the thickness of a man's arm.

 

An advertisement for Staines Kitchen Equipment Co Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.The motor that drives the fan supplying fresh air to the auditorium is 60 horsepower; the motor for the fan extracting air is 35 horse-power.

The various electrical currents used range from 4 volts for working the signal bells, up to 16,000 volts for working the Neon Signs.

The organ motor is 40 horse-power.

Left - An advertisement for Staines Kitchen Equipment Co Ltd - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The operating room is exactly opposite the centre of the screen, which will ensure the possibility of perfect projection. The method of control for each projector is an entirely new design, and can be worked by the fingers of one hand without the operator moving from the side of the machine.

The rainbow lighting of the front exterior and the coloured lighting of the proscenium end of the building are of a method never before used.

There are three projectors of the Gaumont Eclipse type; two large spot lights and one biunial lantern on the enclosure, besides large spot lights situated in various parts of the walls of the auditorium.

The orchestra platform can be raised and lowered by the touch of a button on the director's desk; the organ console platform is similarly operated.

The installation in its entirety has been carried out by Messrs. Troughton and Young, Ltd., of 143, Knightsbridge, under Mr. Davis' supervision.

 

The Style of Entertainment

THE design and equipment of the theatre will permit of the presentation of a unique type of entertainment. The theatre is primarily a picture theatre. The management will concentrate their attention upon the presentation of the pick of the world's finest motion pictures, which they will have every chance of obtaining with the considerable assistance they will derive from their association with Gaumont-British Picture Corporation Ltd.

Music will be a strong feature of the programme. In addition to providing musical settings to the pictures, the full-Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Mr. Charles Williams, one of the most talented musical directors in the country, will contribute selections to each programme, and the colour scheme of the lighting installation will be used in harmony with the musical programme.

The super Compton organ will have at the console Mr. Alex. Ferguson Taylor, one of the world's leading cinema organists, who has been brought back to England from the States to preside at the mighty instrument. Mr. Taylor was recognised as one of the very finest "broadcast" organists in the States.

The third feature of the triple equipment is the stage, one of the largest and most completely equipped in the United Kingdom, with dressing room accommodation for a hundred artists, and capable of presenting any form of entertainment from Grand Opera downwards. The coloured lighting here will constitute an unrivalled attraction. The stage staff is thoroughly expert in every department.
Picture - Music - Stage - each complete programmes in themselves, will be combined in the Davis' Theatre, and the entertainment will possess its own individuality. The theatre having been designed with a view to balancing the programme, the public are thus assured of a high standard of entertainment.

 

Personnel

A page from the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928. THE running of the theatre has been entrusted to Mr. Alfred Davis, the assistant managing director, and will be under his direct personal control.

Mr. Davis is well known in cinematograph circles as having been responsible for many years for the "showmanship" at the Marble Arch Pavilion, the palatial West End Theatre which, of late, has contributed very largely to premier presentations of outstanding British productions. His knowledge of the requirements of picture theatre patrons has been proved by past achievements.

The resident manager, Mr. Ernest W. Bassil, comes with great experience. He was General Manager of Cinema House Circuit, Sheffield, and previously held a responsible position on the managerial staff of the P.C.T.

Right - A page from the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The stage manager, Mr. Cecil Woodings, was stage director at the Garrick Theatre, London, and has had considerable experience with Daniel Meyer and Charles B. Cochran.

Mr. Charles Williams, formerly musical director of the Kensington Kinema, fills a similar post here. In the early days of the Marble Arch Pavilion Mr. Williams was its musical director.

The publicity manager is Mr. H. A. Arnold, from the publicity department of W. and F. Film Service, Ltd.

Mr. Trask, the engineer-in-charge, has for years held a similar position at the Lavender Hill Pavilion; fourteen years under the Davis regime.

Miss Chant, the manageress of the cafe-restaurant, for years held a similar position at the Marble Arch Pavilion, and is an old employee of the Davis Family.

Mr. Morris Levey, the assistant house manager, has for some months been at the Shepherd's Bush Pavilion preparatory to taking over his duties at Croydon.

 

Heating and Ventilating Apparatus

An advertisement for Lloyd Loom Woven Furniture as supplied to the Davis' Theatre - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.THE auditorium is warmed and ventilated in winter and cooled in summer on the most modern "Downward" system. The whole of the fresh air is introduced at the ceiling levels, whilst the vitiated air is exhausted at the floor levels in the stalls and balconies. By this means, cool air may be introduced in summer without causing objectionable draughts, whilst even in cooler weather, the temperature of the crowded auditorium may be prevented from rising unduly by the introduction of relatively cool air without creating draughts.

The auditorium is ventilated by means of 280 tons of fresh air per hour. This air is thoroughly washed and cooled in summer by passing through a large chamber filled with finely atomised water, and provided with special arrangements for preventing free moisture from passing into the building. This air washing chamber is the most modern "Mist" type air washer, by means of which the humidity of the air can be carefully regulated.

The air is warmed in winter by passing over steam-heated batteries, the temperature of the air being controlled from a specially designed control board in the boiler room. The engineer in charge can read the temperature of any part of the auditorium by means of an electrical temperature recorder fixed on the above control board, so that he may regulate the temperature of the theatre without leaving the boiler house.

Right - An advertisement for Lloyd Loom Woven Furniture as supplied to the Davis' Theatre - From the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928.

The remaining portions of the building are heated by means of hot water low pressure radiators, supplied with hot water from a steam-heated calorifier in the boiler house.

The vitiated air is exhausted from the theatre at floor level by means of a very powerful motor-driven exhaust fan of special design.

Steam is supplied to the air heater and the hot water calorifier from two dry back oil-fired steam, boilers, the oil fuel being stored in two large tanks under the road adjoining the boiler house. The oil is pumped to the boilers by means of specially designed pumps, and the oil is atomised by means of compressed air.

The whole of the ventilating machinery, together with the boilers, etc., is housed in a special building detached from the main theatre building, thus minimising fire risk and also risk of noise due to the single-phase motors.

The work was carried out by Messrs. J. Jeffreys & Co., Ltd., of Barrons Place, Waterloo Road, S.E.1.

List of Contractors

Building: GRACE & MARSH, LTD., New Bridge Works, Waddon, Croydon.

Steelwork : LONDON & WALES STEEL CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, LTD., Greville Street, Holborn, E.C.1.

Heating and Ventilation : J. JEFFREYS & CO., LTD., Barrons Place, Waterloo Road, S.E.1.

Vacuum Cleaning Plant : MESSRS. DOD BROS., Gaythorn, Manchester.

Fireproof Curtain : F. BURKITT, Lant Street, Borough, S.E.1.

Fire Hydrants and Sprinklers : INDEPENDENT SPRINKLERS, LTD., Sardinia House, Sardinia Street, Kingsway, W.C.

Ornamental Iron Work and Glass : WAINWRIGHT & WARING, LTD., Albany Forge, 14, High Street, Putney, S.W. ; J. M. PIRIE & CO., LTD., 9, Arlington Street, S.W.1 ; and GARTON & THORNE, LTD., 44, St. Paul's Crescent, Camden Town, N.W.

Passenger Lift : MEDWAY'S SAFETY LIFT CO., Silex Street, S.E.1.

Portland Stone : BATH & PORTLAND STONE FIRMS, LTD., Grosvenor Road, S.W.1.

Imitation Stone : PATENT IMPERVIOUS STONE CO, LTD., Lea Bridge Road, E.10.

Steel Casements and Escape Stairs : MESSRS. F. A. NORRIS & CO., II, St. Andrew's Hill, E.C.4.

Plumbing & Gas Work : MESSRS. JOHN BLAIKIE & SONS, LTD., 24, Fitzroy Square, W.1.

Sanitary Goods : MESSRS. A. GOSLETT & Co., LTD,, 127, Charing Cross Road, W.C.2.

Asphalte : PERMANITE, LTD., 455, Old Ford Road, E.3.

Excavations : H. SABEY & CO., LTD., South Wharf, Paddington, W.2, and H. STREETER, LTD., 54, Leslie Park Road, Croydon.

Fibrous Plaster and Decorations : MESSRS. F. DE JONG & CO., LTD., 84, Albert Street, Camden Town, N.W.1.

Orchestra and Console Lifts : W. J. FURSE & CO., LTD., Traffic Street, Nottingham.

Marblework : THOMAS COOK, 69, Elthorne Avenue, Hanwell, W.7.

Electrical Installation : TROUGHTON & YOUNG, LTD., 143, Knightsbridge, S.W.1.

Organ : JOHN COMPTON ORGAN CO., LTD., Turnham Green Terrace, Chiswick, W.4.

Seating: G. PIXTON Co., LTD., 3, Percy Street, W.1.

Counterweights : LIFT & ENGINEERING, LTD., Wandsworth Road, S.W.8.

Ticket Machines : AUTOMATICKET, LTD., 197, Wardour Street, W.1.

Tilework : CARTER & Co., 29, Albert Embankment, S.E.11.

Clocks : SYNCHRONOME CO., LTD., 32, Clerkenwell Road, E.C.1.

Electric Fittings : F. H. PRIDE & CO., 3, Ramilies Place, Oxford Street, W.

Bronzed Work : PERMANENT BRONZING CO., LTD., 177, St. John Street, E.C.1.

Refrigerators : FRIGIDAIRE, LTD., Vauxhall Bridge Road, S.W.1.

Roof : CONCRETE, LTD., 68, Fenchurch Street, E.C.3.

Safes : CHUBB & Co., Victoria Street, E.C.4.

Kitchen Equipment : BENHAM & SONS, LTD., 66, Wigmore Street, W., and STAINES KITCHEN EQUIPMENT CO., LTD., 94, Victoria Street, S.W.1.

Music Stands : F. BROCKLISS, LTD., 10, Poland Street, W.1.

Table Tops : LONDON SAND BLAST DECORATIVE GLASS WORKS, LTD., 46, Gray's Inn Road, W.C.

Tea Room Chairs : LUSTY & CO., Bromley-by-Bow, E.

Tea Room Tables : SLEIGH BROS., LTD., 134, Old Street, E.C.1.

Glazing: BRITISH CHALLENGE GLAZING CO., 10, Marshgate Lane, E.15.

The text on this page, and its accompanying images, is transcribed from the opening souvenir programme for the Davis Theatre, Croydon,18th of December 1928. Images are in a similar order to the programme itself although some are placed slightly differently for aesthetic reasons.

 

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