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Apollo Victoria history

Designed by a pair of architects, E Warmsley Lewis and W.E Trent, the Apollo Victoria opened on 15th October 1930 as a super-cinema and is Grade II listed.

The opening film shown in the new premises in 1930 was called Old English, adapted from the stage play by John Galsworthy. But the cinema was also designed for pre-movie stage performances prior to the main feature film.

Design-wise the theatre represented a fairy palace under the sea. As one newspaper at the time said, "Although the colouring of the carpets and upholstery is vivid enough, a wonderful impression of coolness is given by the silver-painted walls and green lighting. To enter the auditorium is like entering one's childhood idea of a mermaid's cave, or a grotto under the sea. There are gracefully curved pillars either side of the stage, which merge into oyster shape at the top, and the lighting behind the columns changes from sea-green to delicate coral pink."

In the 1930s, sound amplification was very new and there was some resistance to the trend for mega-cinemas. One reporter from the time asked, "The New Victoria Cinema has been opened during the week – ‘to hold 2,000 people’. But are not the films building for today on the principles of yesterday? The silent film was excellently suited to a huge building, but, for the 'talkies', great size is a disadvantage, for it tends to make the play inaudible. Shall we be driven back to the wordless film because we have built big houses; or shall we now start and build small and intimate houses in order that we may hear the talkies in comfort."

In 1975, the cinema closed for good, re-opening as a live music and performance venue in September 1980. Since then productions have included The Sound of Music with Petula Clark in 1981, Camelot with Richard Harris in 1982, Dash with Wayne Sleep in 1983 and Fiddler on the Roof with Topol, also in 1983.

In 1984, 1262 seats where removed to accommodate a roller-skating track and much of the auditorium was painted black for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Starlight Express, which played for an astonishing 7406 performances.

Since then, large-scale musicals have become the venue's staple diet. In 2006, the theatre become home to the much-anticipated Broadway transfer of Wicked. This production, which is still running, is now one of the highest-grossing musical theatre shows in the last ten years.