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Daly's Theatre, 2 & 8, Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7AL

Later - The Warner Theatre, Cinema / Warner Village / Vue West End

Introduction - Description of the Theatre - Opening - Plans - Later History - Warner Theatre

Other Leicester Square Theatres and Cinemas

Daly's Theatre, Leicester Square - From a postcard. In the distance the Empire Theatre can also be seen.

Above - A Postcard showing Daly's Theatre, Leicester Square, and in the distance the Empire Theatre can also be seen.

 

Daly's Theatre Seating Plane Pre 1907 - Click to Enlarge.See Theatreland MapsDaly's Theatre in London's Leicester Square was built at a cost of £60,000 by Frank Kirk to the designs of the architect Spencer Chadwick, who was assisted by C. J. Phipps. The Theatre was one of the first in London to be built using the Cantilever system. The foundation stone was laid by Ada Rehan on October the 30th, 1891 and the Theatre opened, under the management of Augustin Daly, on the 27th of June 1893 with Shakespeare's 'The Taming Of The Shrew'. This followed an address by Ada Rehan, who was part of Daly's American Company; the National Anthem, sung by Lloyd Daubigny and Chorus; and 'The Star Spangled Banner' which was sung by Percy Haswell and Lena Loraine and Chorus.

Augustin Daly was an American Producer who had brought his productions to London many times from 1884 to 1891 with great success. Eventually it was decided that a permanent home for Daly's Company in London would be beneficial and in collaboration with George Edwardes the new Theatre in Leicester Square was built.

 

A Programme for 'An Artist's Model' at Daly's Theatre in February 1895 - Click to see the entire Programme.

Above - A Programme for 'An Artist's Model' at Daly's Theatre in February 1895 - Click to see the entire Programme.

 

1905 Tinted Postcard of Daly's Theatre.The day after Daly's Theatre opened the Daily Graphic printed a description of the new building in it's June 28th 1893 edition, reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres Of London' which said:- 'The facade in Cranbourne Street is a pleasing relief from the unimposing architecture of most of the London theatres. It has been designed in the Italian Renaissance style, and executed in Ham Hill stone.

Right - A Tinted Postcard of Daly's Theatre posted in 1905.

The ground floor is of the rustic order, and from it rises a Doric base with fluted columns. In the centre of the building is a bold pediment over a series of columns, a design which gives a pleasing dignity to the front. At each end of the facade is a graceful tower with carved figure spandrels representing the muses of song. The whole is crowned by a fine example of the Attic order.

The main entrance of the theatre opens into a handsomely furnished hall (Shown Below) , with a mosaic flooring. A feature of the hall is the American logwood stove, which gives to the entrance a warm and cheering effect. From the entrance-hall a spacious staircase leads to the foyer, which arrangement, it is claimed by the architect, is a distinct novelty in theatrical construction. The foyer itself has been carried out in an Italian style, with a treatment of gold and blending tints...

 

The entrance hall of Daly's Theatre - From a Programme for the Second Edition of 'An Artist's Model' at Theatre in September 1895 - Click to see the entire Programme.

Above - The entrance hall of Daly's Theatre - From a Programme for the Second Edition of 'An Artist's Model' at Theatre in September 1895 - Click to see the entire Programme.

The first floor foyer of Daly's Theatre - From a Programme for the Second Edition of 'An Artist's Model' at Theatre in September 1895 - Click to see the entire Programme.

Above - The first floor foyer of Daly's Theatre - From a Programme for the Second Edition of 'An Artist's Model' at Theatre in September 1895 - Click to see the entire Programme.

Programme for 'The Dollar Princess' at Daly's Theatre in 1925 but first produced at Daly's in 1909. ...On entering the auditorium the first thing to impress the spectator is the bold originality of its outline and decoration. The general scheme of colour is a blending of red, gold, silver and bronze.

The circle fronts and boxes have been modelled in such a way as to represent boatloads of sea nymphs and Cupids in the act of blowing bubbles, which bubbles have been ingeniously converted into electric lights of many tints.

Right - A Programme for 'The Dollar Princess' at Daly's Theatre in 1925, but first produced at Daly's in 1909.

The auditorium will seat upwards of twelve hundred persons, and it has been so arranged that the public will be able to obtain a good view of the stage from all parts of the house.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Daily Graphic, June 28th 1893, reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres Of London'.

 

A Programme for the Second Edition of 'An Artist's Model' at Daly's Theatre in September 1895 - Click to see entire Programme.

Above - A Programme for the Second Edition of 'An Artist's Model' at Daly's Theatre in September 1895 - Click to see the entire Programme.

Left - Programme for 'That's a Pretty Thing' at Daly's Theatre in 1933.The ERA printed a review of the building and its opening production in their 1st of July 1893 edition, reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres of London' which said:- 'A brilliant audience, which included many celebrities in the legal, literary, and dramatic worlds, assembled in Mr. Augustin Daly's new theatre in Leicester Square on Tuesday last, to admire the house, and to witness a performance of The Taming of the Shrew, with Miss Ada Rehan in the part of Katharine.

Right - A Programme for 'That's a Pretty Thing' at Daly's Theatre in 1933.

After the overture, the rose-coloured, gold embroidered curtains separated, and showed a number of ladies and gentlemen in evening dress, who subsequently, led by Mr. Lloyd Daubigny, sang 'God Save the Queen,' the audience, of course, standing, and then Miss Percy Haswell and Miss Lena Loraine sang the solo part of 'The Star Spangled Banner,' in which the chorus heartily joined. Loud and long was the applause which greeted Miss Ada Rehan, who was visibly affected by the cordiality of the welcome, but who preserved sufficient composure to repeat, with exquisite distinctness and deep feeling, the 'Song of Union,' written for the occasion at the Falls of Niagara, by Mr. Clement Scott.

Programme for 'Charley's Aunt' at Daly's Theatre in 1934.In the vestibule, the fine marble floor and the circular gallery above (Shown Above) are most remarkable. In the auditorium has been made one of the boldest experiments in theatrical architecture that we have for some time seen.

Left - A Programme for 'Charley's Aunt' at Daly's Theatre in 1934.

The theory that colouring and design in the body of a playhouse should be 'kept down' has been entirely abandoned; and instead of the half-tints and delicate traceries of some theatres, we have great masses of ruby, Venetian red, dull silver and burnished gold. Additional warmth is given to the colour-scheme by the marqueterie panelling with which the walls of the lower part of the auditorium are covered. The general effect of the scheme is powerful and impressive.

Daly's Theatre - From a Programme for the Second Edition of 'An Artist's Model' at Theatre in September 1895 - Click to see the entire Programme.There is fine freedom in the modelling of the Cupids in boats which adorn each of the circles; and the nobility of aim is well sustained in the dome, with its severe scroll around the sunlight, and its immense winged figures of Fame. The style of most theatres is based on the idea of a drawing-room; Daly's rather recalls the more solid dining or banqueting apartment. In somewhat curious contrast to this solidity are the delicacy and graceful gaiety of the curtain, upon which Miss Ada Rehan is represented seated studying a part from an open book, whilst a dark haired Cupid endeavours in vain to distract her from her task -an excellent moral, by the way, for any actress. It is only fair to the architect to mention that on Tuesday the impression created by the auditorium, as a whole, was imperfect.

Programme for 'Young England' at Daly's Theatre in 1935 which was a transfer from the Victoria Palace Theatre.Right - Daly's Theatre - From a Programme for the Second Edition of 'An Artist's Model' at Theatre in September 1895 - Click to see the entire Programme.

Left - A Programme for 'Young England' at Daly's Theatre in 1935 which was a transfer from the Victoria Palace Theatre.

Owing to some hitch in the electric lighting apparatus, a great many of the lamps around the circles were extinguished, and the effect was not the same as it would have been with the amount of illumination on which Mr. Spencer Chadwick had relied when he made his plans. Tastes may differ as to the style best suited for the inside of a playhouse, but there can be no two opinions about the manner in which the highly original leading idea has been carried out, or as to the sumptuous style of the upholstery. Daly's Theatre has certainly one of the most original and artistic interiors in London.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Era July 1893, reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's 'Lost Theatres Of London'.

 

An article and many plans and sketches of Daly's Theatre can be found in Edwin O Sachs' 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' published between 1896 and 1898. I have transcribed Sachs' rather scathing article on the Theatre below, along with many of its accompanying images:

A Sketch of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

Above - A Sketch of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

The Front Elevation of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.'Daly's Theatre calls for notice as an example of a moderate sized London playhouse, in which the architectural elaboration has had more than ordinary attention, both on the exterior and the interior. In conception, this building is noticeable for what I may term clever and intricate arrangement, allowing the maximum use of space at a minimum expenditure, but at the same time there is a certain breadth of treatment which gives the block an air of dignity.

Right - The Front Elevation of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

The proprietor, whose experience of theatre management was gained in America, naturally regards the building solely from a commercial point of view; yet it is clear that he had some consideration for the appearance of his block beyond the interests of mere advertisement. Although he had, no doubt, considerable influence personally in matters of detail, it cannot be said that the block, as a whole, has been in any way affected by American models. An important point to bear in mind is that the house was built for a particular company which excels in Comedy, and that hence, compactness was one of the principal requirements.

The preparation and execution of the design were entrusted to Spencer Chadwick, who commenced operations in 1891, and completed the work in 1893. The cost of the block was approximately 40,000l...

 

A Plan of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

Above - A Plan of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

The Proscenium of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto....In some respects the design of the building has been influenced by contemporary work. As in the D'Oyly Carte Theatre, the arrangement of the tiers and the cantilever work tend to make the disposition of the Auditorium the principal feature of the block. Unfortunately, the architect has not been content to imitate only these features, but in the same manner has placed his uppermost tier in a well or chute, a contrivance which cannot be too strongly condemned. It is the more to be regretted that he has resorted to this method of providing greater accommodation for the audience, as this makeshift contrasts markedly with the general arrangement of the Auditorium, especially when it is considered, what successful efforts have been made to secure good hearing and seeing.

Right - The Proscenium of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

It will be noticed that while in D'Oyly Carte's Opera House, the back of the area is on the street level, and only the front rows fall slightly below it, in this instance the whole of the area lies lower than the roadway, the back of the first tier being at the same height as the main vestibule...

 

A Transverse Section of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

Above - A Transverse Section of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

The Auditorium of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto....I must here take the opportunity to remark upon the advantages of this method of planning in adding to the security of the audience, as the spectators seated in the upper tiers are thus brought nearer to the open than would otherwise be the case. I would further add that, besides the fact of the uppermost seats being in this way nearer the road level, the proportion of the audience having to go downstairs, which is so dangerous an operation in times of panic, becomes materially reduced; whereas the necessity for occupants of the area to go upstairs cannot be considered an increased risk. To my mind, an ascent is even safer for panic-stricken people than the level, the force of any crush being reduced, and the chance of stumbling minimised. The sinking of the area also facilitates approach to the different and essentially distinct sections of this floor.

Right - The Auditorium of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

In respect to the division of the area into "stalls" and " pit," the difficulty created for the architect by the latter characteristic feature of the English playhouse must not be left without mention, for it is obvious that the seats in that part being unreserved and the occupants not being allowed to mix with those of the stalls, the manner of arranging their approach and exit requires no little care. The important position of the English "pit" can in no way be compared with the "parterre" of the Continental establishment, where an entirely different object has to be fulfilled.

It is not, however, the arrangement of the Auditorium only that is principally remarkable in this block, but also to a certain extent, its architectural treatment, as compared with other London theatres. Both in the lines of the proscenium opening and the decoration of the tier-fronts, there is a considerable amount of originality, which causes the greater regret that the detail and colour study are so coarsely executed. What promises so well when seen in drawing has, in execution, almost resulted in a failure; and I should add that this is due to the detail having been left to the so-called "plastic decorator" in the manner I have indicated in my Introduction.

The disposition of the staircases, entrances and exits shows intricate planning, combined with great economy of space, though it must be allowed that much clearness has been lost through tricky contrivances. It is fortunate that the Lounge, with its view into the Grand Vestibule, counteracts to a large extent, by its dignity of line as distinct from detail, the effect of these devices. There are no special points of interest in the Stage or offices, and it is needless to remark that what is termed "fire-resisting" material has been largely used.

Taken as a whole, Daly's Theatre affords one of the best examples of the average type of London Comedy House in which the characteristic failings of excessive economy, at the cost of breadth and detail, have been materially lessened. It is regrettable that in a building where there was every opportunity to obtain yet better results, the improvements stopped half-way.'

Ground Plan of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto. Ground Plan of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

Ground Plan of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto. Ground Plan of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

Above - Ground Plans of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto who says:- 'Unfortunately these drawings do not show all of the Theatre. The back wall did have a kink in it and behind was a scene dock running the width of the stage about 15ft deep. The stage itself was below ground, the dress circle was on street level. If you go into the Warners cinema today, the old site of Daly’s, there is still a below ground level. The scenery ‘get in’ was in Lisle Street with an angled ramp from street level to the stage below. Above the scene dock was the ladies and gents chorus dressing rooms. The floor above was a rehearsal room and above that a roof garden, with a small room for sewing and costume repairs. What is surprising is the intimacy of the auditorium and what looks like what would have been a rather cramped stage. The other musical Theatres the old and new Gaiety Theatres down on the Strand were also the same intimate size with stage to match. You can see the Royal entrance with own entrance on the street level / dress circle plan.'

The Approximate Dimensions of Daly's Theatre - From 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.

The above text in quotes, and its accompanying images, were first published in 'Modern Opera Houses and Theatres' by Edwin O Sachs, 1896-1898, and held at the Library of the Technical University (TU) in Delft - Kindly sent in by John Otto.


Presentation Souvenir Programme for the 1,000th performance of 'The Maid of the Mountains' at the Dalys Theatre on June the 24th 1919 - Courtesy Laurens Willard.George Edwardes died in October 1915 leaving £49,780, quite a sum in those days. His daughter Mrs. Sherbrook and Robert Evett took over the running of the Theatre in George's absence but continued his successful and well established run of Continental operettas with a production of 'The Happy Day' in 1916, followed by 'The Maid of the Mountains' in 1917, 'A Southern Maid in 1920 and 'Sybil' in 1921.

Presentation Souvenir Programme for the 1,000th performance of 'The Maid of the Mountains' at the Dalys Theatre on June the 24th 1919 - Courtesy Laurens Willard.Left and Right - A Presentation Souvenir Programme for the 1,000th performance of 'The Maid of the Mountains' at the Dalys Theatre on June the 24th 1919 - Courtesy Laurens Willard.

The Maid of the Mountains was particularly successful, and introduced Lottie Collins' daughter Jose Collins. The production had an immense run of 1,352 performances.

Eventually in 1922 the Trustees of George Edwardes' estate sold the Theatre to James White, who was a gambler on the Stock Exchange, for £200,000. Sadly James White was to commit suicide just five years later in 1927.

Daly's Theatre closed on the 25th of September 1937 after the last performance of 'The First Legion' and was sold to Warner Brothers who demolished the Theatre and rebuilt it as a Theatre and Cinema called the Warner Theatre. (See Below).

 

The Warner Theatre, Cinema, Leicester Square
Later - Warner Village / Vue West End

The Warner Cinema during the run of 'Giant' with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean in a photograph taken on the 3rd of January 1957 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone

Above - The Warner Cinema during the run of 'Giant' with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean in a photograph taken on the 3rd of January 1957 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone. Also see the London Hippodrome.

Daly's Theatre closed on the 25th of September 1937 after the last performance of 'The First Legion' and was sold to Warner Brothers who demolished the Theatre and rebuilt it as a Theatre and Cinema called the Warner Theatre. This was built by E. A. Stone and T. R. Somerford and could accommodate 1,775 people on two levels. The Warner opened on the 12th of October 1938 with 'The Adventures Of Robin Hood.'

 

The Warner Cinema during the run of 'A Star is Born' with Judy Garland and James Mason in a photograph taken on the 11 April 1955 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

Above - The Warner Cinema during the run of 'A Star is Born' with Judy Garland and James Mason in a photograph taken on the 11 April 1955 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

The Warner Cinema at night, during the run of 'A Star is Born' with Judy Garland and James Mason in 1955 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

Above - The Warner Cinema at night, during the run of 'A Star is Born' with Judy Garland and James Mason in 1955 - Courtesy Allan Hailstone.

The Warner Theatre was itself demolished in the early 1980s although the Facade of the Theatre was retained. The new building was a modern Warner Cinema complex known as the 'Warrner Village' which had 9 screens, see photographs below.

Detail of photograph taken in June 2003 showing the Warner Village, and the London Hippodrome. - Photo M.L.

Above - Detail of photograph taken in June 2003 showing the Warner Village, and the London Hippodrome. - Photo M.L.

Photograph taken in June 2003 showing the Empire Leicester Square, The Warner Village, and in the distance, the London Hippodrome. - Photo M.L.

Above - A Photograph taken in June 2003 showing the Empire Leicester Square, The Warner Village, and in the distance, the London Hippodrome. - Photo M.L.

 

The Warner Village was later bought by Vue in 2003 and the building is now known as Vue West End who say that the complex houses '9 state of the art auditoriums, each with wall to ceiling screens, air conditioning and Dolby surround sound in each auditorium.'

Vue West End, Leicester Square in December 2006, on the site of the former Daly's Theatre - Photo M.L.

Above - Vue West End, Leicester Square in December 2006, on the site of the former Daly's Theatre - Photo M.L.