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Capitol Theatre, Princes Street, Dublin

Formerly La Scala Theatre

Dublin Theatres Index

 

The Capitol Theatre, Dublin - Courtesy Des KerinsThe 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 Kerins.

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.

The site of the Capitol Theatre, Dublin in March 2009 - Courtesy Des Kerins

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.