Capitol Theatre in Princes Street Dublin originally opened as La Scala
Theatre in August 1920. It was designed as an opera house and was built
on the site of the Freemans Journal newspaper offices.
The Theatre had a restaurant, a cafe, a lounge bar and a ballroom so
it was a very complete entertainment venue and very forward-looking
for the times. The site was available because the centre of Dublin city
was very badly destroyed in the insurrection of 1916.
From 1920 onwards there was a great effort made to rebuild the main
street, O'Connell Street and the associated side streets. Princes Street
was one of those side streets.
Right - The Capitol Theatre, Dublin - Courtesy Des
The wood paneling and interior doors of the Theatre came from Belfast
where they had been made in preparation for installation in the cruise
ship "Britannic". However at the commencement of the 1914-1918
war the ship was detailed for use as a troop carrier and was sunk in
1916 during the war.
The Theatre had two balconies and many private boxes and could seat
1,400 people. In 1927 Paramount (the Hollywood movie company) took over
the lease and renamed it as "The Capitol". Their interest
was to have an outlet for their movies in the centre of Dublin
and, as in all the other Theatres which they leased, Paramount introduced
stage shows. Alec Fryer came over from the London
Rialto Cinema to be the musical director. In April 1929 the first
talking movie was shown at the Capitol and proved to be a great success.
Among those appearing in 1929 were Sophie Tucker, Geraldo and Jack Hylton
and their respective orchestras. In 1934 the lease changed hands again
and following on from that the Dublin Operatic Society played several
seasons there, others who appeared there were Count John McCormack,
Paul Robeson, Beniamino Gigli, W C Fields and Will Rogers.
In 1943 cine-variety began once again and continued until 1953. The
last stage show was in October 1953 and it was a grand farewell celebration.
Among those appearing were Johnny Keyes, Phyllis Power, Sean Mooney,
Jack Kirwan and Cecil Nash.
There is only one record of a legitimate 3-act play being performed
in the Capitol and that was "The Scarlet Pimpernel" in 1942
starring Anew McMaster, the well known Irish actor. The ballroom closed
in 1943 and the space was given over to providing extra dressing rooms.
Above - The site of the Capitol Theatre, Dublin in
March 2009 - Courtesy Des Kerins
Other artists who appeared regularly at the Capitol were Mike Nolan,
Roy Croft, Freddie Doyle, Paddy Crosbie and Martin Crosbie. There was
always a resident orchestra and a troop of dancers called the Capitol
Girls under the leadership of Dolly Sparkes and Norah Flanagan.
The Theatre was demolished in 1972 and a new department store built
on the site.
I have many fond memories of the Capitol because my father George Kerins
worked there in the 1930's and my grandfather Paddy Kerins also worked
there from the early 1040's until his death in 1958.
Above Text and images Courtesy Des Kerins.