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Theatres in Dagenham, East London

The Princess Cinema, New Road, Dagenham

Proposed name: The Capitol Theatre - Later - ABC / The Princess Bowl / Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries

A Google StreetView Image of the former Princess Cinema, New Road, Dagenham - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Princess Cinema, New Road, Dagenham - Click to Interact.

The former Princess Cinema is situated on New Road, Dagenham, directly opposite the site of the former Ford Motor Works. The Theatre was designed by the well known Theatre Architect Robert Cromie and opened on the 8th of October 1932. The Theatre's auditorium was designed on the Stadium Plan meaning it had one large raked seating area all on one level which rose up to a circle at the back of the stalls. The Theatre was equipped with a stage for variety productions, dressing rooms for its artists, a Compton Theatre Organ, and a large cafe over the main entrance behind three tall glass colonnaded windows.

The Bioscope reported on the proposed Capitol Cinema, a name which wasn't used in the end, in their April the 13th 1932 edition saying:- 'Preparatory work has now started on the development of an important site at the junction of New Road (formerly Ripple Road) and Ford Road, Dagenham, Essex, which is to carry a cinema and shops. The area of the site is approximately 2 acres, and it stands practically opposite the huge new Ford Motor Works. It is also adjacent to the big Dagenham L.C.C. housing estate. Up to now this rapidly growing district has been very inadequately served with entertainment, but when the scheme now begun is accomplished the area will possess a super cinema with a seat capacity of well over 2,000, with a restaurant and a shopping centre of over 20 shops grouped about it.

The promoters are Lou Morris, the well-known exhibitor, and R. Costain & Son, plans for the entire scheme having been prepared by Robert Cromie. The cinema will be known as the Capitol, and has been designed so as to bear comparison as regards equipment and furnishing with the most luxurious in the country.

Colour Lighting on Front

The front elevation will be of white stone, with a deep plinth of black marble surrounding the base, and will have a striking vertical treatment. Handsome entrance doors, treated with black cellulose paint and chromium fittings, will act as a foil to the white stonework. A feature will be made of three tall colonnaded windows immediately over the main entrance. These windows will light a spacious cafe lounge and dance hall, which will extend over the full width of the theatre. As the local authorities insist that, if neon or tube lighting is employed on the front, the cable casing shall be on the face of the wall and not hidden inside it, the architect has decided against this form of lighting and has introduced a three-colour flood lighting scheme, each colour of which will change automatically every seven minutes. The title of the theatre across the top of the facade will be illuminated from behind in an original manner, so that the name "Capitol" will stand out from the wall and be visible from a considerable distance.

Entrance will be by means of a cosy vestibule, abut 60 by 40 ft. in dimensions. Beyond this will be a large waiting foyer, which will extend the full width of the auditorium, and from which will be a three-way feed to the stalls. The form of the auditorium will be unusual, as there will be no circle: the higher priced seats will instead be laid out on the stadium principle, the tiers of which will be fed from a central and side approach ways, with an additional feed from the top. Splay walls of the auditorium will not be straight, as is more common, but concave. On both sides of the stage will be organ chambers, masked by richly decorated grilles. A Compton organ will be installed here.

Green and Gold Furnishings

All the upholstery, seating and carpets will be carried out in green and the stage drapes will be of green and gold. The proscenium arch will be square, with deep coves extending over both sides and top. These coves, or troughs, will be the medium for an original lighting scheme. A full size stage, with a working space of 22 by 68ft., thoroughly equipped to permit of stage presentations, will also be provided for. By housing the loud-speaker horns in a special chamber in the back wall it will be possible to utilise the whole of the stage, and by constructing a passageway underneath, access to the stage will be possible from either end while it is actually in use.

The projection room and accessory chambers will be placed at the rear of the hall. The box itself will be equipped with three machines and three spots. Its dimensions will be 38 by 13ft., and the throw to the screen will be around 150ft.

R. Costain & Son will carry out the general building contract and the Horseley Bridge Steel & Engineering Co. will be responsible for the steelwork. Apart from that for the organ, no other contracts have yet been determined. Acting in conjunction with Mr. Cromie will be S. W. Budd, M. Inst.C.E., the consulting engineer. Reference to the scheme was first published in the Bioscope on March 16th.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Bioscope, 13th April 1932.

The Princess Cinema, as it was called when it first opened on the 8th of October 1932, rather than the proposed Capitol Theatre name mentioned in the article above, was run at first by Lou Morris but it was taken over by ABC, (Associated British Cinemas Ltd.) in August 1933, and they continued to operate the Theatre until its eventual closure by them on the 23rd of April 1960.

The Theatre was then converted into a Bowling Alley called the Princess Bowl which opened in December the same year, 1960, and would continue in this use until its eventual closure in the early 2000s. After which the Theatre's auditorium and stage were demolished and housing was constructed on its site. The Entrance and Foyer of the building were retained however, and still exists today, albeit in a rather dilapidated state, as a branch of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries.

Some of the above information for this Theatre was gleaned from the excellent Cinema Treasures Website.

If you have any more information or Images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

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