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The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham

FOREWORD

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham Gaumont Palace, Peckham, has been created by a happy blending of comfort, cheerfulness and good taste, and is one of the most beautifully artistic and up-to-date places of entertainment in London. The sponsors, Gaumont-British Picture Corporation Ltd., already control over 300 of Britain's leading Cinema Theatres and are therefore in the unique position of being able to acquire for presentation in Peckham, the pick of the World's picture successes, the finest Vaudeville Artistes and the best Orchestras and Organists. British pictures will be well to the fore in the programmes to be presented at this Theatre, the erection of which has been a splendid example of British enterprise and ingenuity. The fact that the Management will be in the capable hands of Mr. A. H. Shapeero, who comes to Peckham from another of the Company's Theatres at Clapton, is a guarantee that patrons will be catered for and entertained on a most lavish scale.

STORY of the GAUMONT PALACE

Erected upon the site of the old Peckham Hippodrome, the new Gaumont Palace incorporates the most modern innovations in theatre construction, and has been designed and equipped in accordance with the latest practice in lighting, heating, ventilation, picture projection and acoustics; the whole carried out from the designs and under the superintendence of Frank Verity and S. Beverley, FF.R.I.B.A., the famous Architects who were also responsible for Gaumont theatres at Shepherds Bush, Bristol, etc.

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham The new building which has grown up in the place of the old Theatre, completely blots out any recollection of the previous structure, and Peckham inhabitants will appreciate the difference between the old and the new, for the comfort and luxury to be found can only be equalled in the latest West End theatres.

Fronting on Peckham High Street, the exterior of the building is strong and imposing, the material being brick of a rich red colour. The Main Entrance, placed at the corner of the Site, has a pressed steel canopy above the Entrance Doors, where a gold motif is effectively introduced. The Entrance Vestibule leads direct to the Grand Foyer, from which the various parts of the Auditorium are approached. It is impossible more than merely to summarise the attractions of the Foyers, which are larger than many in the West-End. The walls of both the Entrance Vestibule and the Main Foyer are painted in gay tones.

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham

However charming the Entrance Vestibule and Foyer, they are merely in the nature of a preliminary intimation of the brilliance of the Auditorium, for the treatment here is modern, the dominating colours of the walls being Chinese red and parchment, the main Architectural lines being green with silver and old gold and purple silk panels.

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham The Auditorium ceiling is slightly domed and upon it is painted in soft tones, spring flowers, the complete effect of the Auditorium being light and gay - the whole giving a feeling of freedom and spaciousness. Large, bold and simple, the Proscenium Opening is accentuated by means of flat surfaces, commencing from each side of the Auditorium and gradually receding towards the Proscenium Opening itself, the whole being coloured in red, green and gold.

The Tableau curtains are of silk in a brilliant shade of green, the central feature being a large idealised fan, upon which is embroidered flowers, taking up the colours of the Auditorium walls and ceiling. The Proscenium Opening is surmounted by a Pelmet in red silk, upon which is applied a flowered design in harmony with the main curtain. The Stalls and Circle are carpeted in red, relieved by green wreaths, the upholstering of the seats is in velours of a soft green colour.

The Auditorium has seating accommodation for 2,250, with a total capacity of 2,500. The stalls seat 1,350 persons, with standing space for 250 more, and there is one large circle with 950 seats. The Auditorium is so planned that the whole of the Stage with the Screen undistorted can be seen from every seat.

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham

The Stage is fully equipped with all the modern mechanical and lighting devices for the best possible presentation of Vaudeville Acts. Great care has been taken in planning to give every consideration to the comfort of the patron, and the seating has been laid out with generous spacing.

The Gaumont Palace has been a source of employment for an army of men, and been completed in ten months. This has been achieved with the invaluable cooperation of the Contractors, Messrs. Thomas & Edge, Ltd., and the various sub-contractors, to whom the Proprietors and the Architects express their sincere appreciation.

THE ELECTRICAL INSTALLATION

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham The electrical equipment of this Theatre has been carried out on the most up-to-date lines. The general decorative lighting is amber from concealed lamps, set in troughing in an outer ring of the main auditorium ceiling. A number of decorative fittings are installed to balance the lighting. For the safety of the public, a battery has been installed, so that a complete system of secondary lighting is always ready in case the main supply breaks down at any time. The auditorium, passages, corridors, etc., would be adequately illuminated in case of a failure, also, all other parts of the house to which the public have access. The battery is of sufficient capacity to give the whole of the building an adequate supply of light for three to four hours, in the event of a breakdown on the main supply.

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham The stage lighting equipment is of the very latest, and will give a very comprehensive number of effects. There are well over 150 h.p. motors installed throughout the building, The important supply for the projector arcs is provided by two motor generators of special design, each having an output of about 300 amps and being capable, if necessary, of supplying the normal full-load requirements. These machines, as well as the dynamo for charging the battery which supplies the emergency lighting (instantly available in the event of failure of the main lighting) were supplied by Messrs. Crompton Parkinson Ltd., specialists in the manufacture of cinema generating and converting plant. The Ironclad Switchgear were supplied by Messrs. Gradley Ltd. The whole electrical installation has been carried out by the staff of the Gaumont-British Engineers' Dept., with local labour.

SOUND EQUIPMENT

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham If enjoyment is to be derived from sound pictures, it is obviously important to produce conditions of comfortable hearing. It has long been customary in the majority of cases for architects to design theatres at considerable expense, making special efforts to secure strength, fine architectural lines, beautiful illumination and proper ventilation, but there has always been a doubt as to whether the theatre has the correct acoustic characteristics. To-day this problem no longer can be neglected, and it ranks equally in importance with lighting, heating and ventilation.

The acoustic conditions of a theatre depend on three factors, viz., the size, shape and nature of the surface of the walls and ceiling. The interior of the Gaumont Palace has itself received special acoustic treatment which, after exhaustive tests, proved that its condition acoustically is perfect, and therefore with the best apparatus and ideal acoustic conditions the resulting sound at this theatre is really excellent.

The Gaumont Palace is fitted with a remarkably fine sound system, known as the British Acoustic. The entire installation was designed to meet the very exacting requirements of modern motion picture projection, and is capable of reproducing sound from either film recording or disc recording by means of specially-designed pick ups. Unlike other forms of sound equipment, the British Acoustic employs a special type of light sensitive cell, known as a selenium cell, and the resulting reproduction is remarkably pure and clear.

The amplifying system is excellently designed and constructed, and has an undistorted output of 90-100 watts. To avoid any possible stoppage in the sound programme, this amplifier system is duplicated so that by means of switching arrangements either an A. or B. amplifier set may be used at will. The speakers are so arranged behind a specially-constructed porous screen that every part of this vast theatre is adequately filled with sound.

HEATING and VENTILATION

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham The ventilation is on the Plenum principle, fresh air being tempered and washed in its passage to the Fan, which is driven from a Super Silent Motor by Vee Ropes and designed to ensure silent running. Approximately 2,500,000 cubic feet of air is delivered into the Auditorium every hour and there is also sufficient air entering the Foyer to cause a complete sweep out every 12 minutes. All air delivered into the Auditorium is controlled automatically.

In addition to control of the temperature, the amount of moisture in the air is also controlled automatically. Thus, the most ideal conditions for the comfort of the Patrons are ensured. The vitiated air is drawn out of the Auditorium at Ceiling Level by means of Extract Ventilating Plant capable of removing approximately 1,870,000 cubic feet per hour. This fan also is driven from a Super Silent Motor by Vee Ropes to ensure silent running.

All entrances and exits are heated by Direct Radiators, whilst the stage is dealt with in such a manner as to prevent down-draughts to the front of the Auditorium. The heat necessary for the Ventilating Plant and the Direct Heating is generated by means of an Economic Type Steam Boiler, capable of supplying 5,200 lbs. of steam per hour. This Boiler is fired by means of two Automatic Oil Firing Units by Quiet May.

All Dressing Rooms, etc., are fitted with a constant supply of Hot Water, the supply being obtained in Winter from a Calorifier heated by steam from the main Boiler, and in Summer direct from a Hot Water Boiler. This method renders it unnecessary for the main Boiler to be in commission during Summer. The Hot Water Boiler is also fired by an Automatic Oil Firing Unit, so that attendance in the Boiler Room is reduced to a minimum. The whole of the work in connection with the Ventilation and Heating has been carried out by Hall & Kay, Limited, of Ashton-under-Lyne and London.

THE ORGAN

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham The Gaumont Super Organ installed at the Gaumont Palace, Peckham, has been specially built for the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation Ltd., by the John Compton Organ Company of Willesden, and the workmanship throughout is British. The design and tonal qualities are the result of years of experimenting by Mr. E. Grimshaw - Musical Supervisor to the Corporation.

The mechanical parts of the organ are located in two large chambers under the stage. In these chambers are contained hundreds of pipes of all sizes, from sixteen feet to a few inches in length, and from ten inches to one-eighth-of-an-inch in diameter.

There is also a full equipment of percussion instruments, including Bass Drum, Military Drum, Castagnets, Tambourine, Sleigh Bells, Tom-Tom, Triangle, Cathedral Chimes, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Vibraphone and Carillon, which is the latest sensational addition to the organs installed in the Gaumont Theatres.

While having the full range and volume of a Cathedral organ, this special model also contains every instrument in a Symphony orchestra, and is so made up that the Organist can imitate almost any kind of noise, human and otherwise.

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham The organ console is placed in the centre of the orchestra pit. This console is equipped with three manuals (keyboards), each with a range of sixty-one notes, and a pedal board with thirty-two notes.

There are also over a hundred tablets which bring into effect the different tonal qualities and in addition there are thirty thumb and toe pistons. The only connection between the organ console and the pipes, etc., in the organ chamber is a flexible armoured cable.

This cable contains nearly a thousand insulated wires, and the response of the instrument to the demands of the organist exceeds in speed the action of the best make of piano.

This organ consumes approximately fifty thousand cubic feet of compressed air per hour, and the air is compressed by the eight horse-blower, operated by an electric motor.

There are in the organ mechanism some five thousand electrical contacts, each of Sterling silver, some hundreds of electro magnets and approximately fifty miles of insulated wire in the various parts and connections. In other words sufficient electric wire to reach from Peckham to Brighton.

It is interesting to note that almost every known kind of timber has to be used in making up what may be considered as the most perfect cinema organ of to-day.

STEEL CONSTRUCTION

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham Many of the numerous difficult problems connected with the construction of a modern Theatre are only made possible by the skill of the Engineers and the use of steel construction. The large spans of balconies, roofs, proscenium opening and stage construction necessitate careful design of large girders, cantilevers and trusses, all of which is concealed from the eye of the public.

The complicated requirements of the Ventilating Engineers and the housing of the engineering services, also add to the problems of these modern structures, and there must be no waste of space or materials. In this Theatre there is approximately 655 tons of steelwork, one of the main girders alone weighing 60 tons, and another girder in the roof is 113' 0" long and weighs 40 tons.

Speed is an essential factor in Theatre construction and the clang of the rivetter has soon to be heard upon any site after the ground has been cleared, in order that, in these economic times, there shall be no waste of finance.

The steelwork in this Theatre was designed to the plans of and under the direction of the Architects, Messrs. Frank Verity and S. Beverley, FF.R.I.B.A., and was supplied and erected in the short time of 24 weeks by Messrs. Moreland Hayne & Co., Ltd., of 80 Goswell Road, E.C.1, who are pre-eminent in Theatre steel construction. The whole of the steelwork is British and was designed, fabricated and erected by British workers.

THE MANAGER

The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham The Manager of the Gaumont Palace, Peckham - Mr. A. H. Shapeero, has gained rapid promotion since joining the Company. Commencing his career as Assistant Manager at Shepherds Bush Pavilion, he quickly mastered the routine and gained further experience when transferred to the West End Astoria.

After a spell at this theatre, he was promoted to the Management of the Rink Cinema, Clapton, where he has been until his transfer to Peckham.

Mr. Shapeero comes from old Cinema and Theatrical stock, well-known in the Midlands for a great number of years. He has had a very distinguished career, and is an all round sportsman.

Mr. Shapeero is a man of striking appearance, - standing 6 ft., and has a pleasing personality, which is likely to make him popular with the patrons of the Gaumont Palace.

The above text and its accompanying images are from the Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham on the 8th of February 1932.

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Above - The Opening Souvenir Programme for the Gaumont Palace Theatre, Peckham on the 8th of February 1932.

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