the wonderful majestic
The Majestic Theatre is an events space in the heart of Darlington which aims to replace the arts centre which was closed in 2012. The present owners of the Majestic Theatre (Lyall Events Entertainment) are looking to create a multi-use arts space that caters for as many people as possible.
The Majestic Cinema opened on 26th December 1932 with Nancy Brown in “Maid of the Mountains”. It was built for an independent operator.
Seating in the auditorium was 1580, with 1039 in the stalls and 541 in the balcony. The proscenium was 45 feet wide, the stage 17 feet deep and there were five dressing rooms. The cinema was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/8Rank organ which was opened by Frank Matthews. An additional facility was the provision of a cafe.
In November 1935, it was taken over by National Provincial Cinemas Ltd. who were part of Union Cinemas chain. In 1937, Union Cinemas pulled out of the running of the Majestic Cinema and it returned to its original operators.
It was taken over by the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd. on 16th July 1943 and re-named Odeon on 9th April 1945. The cafe was still advertised as open during the 1950’s. In 1968, the Compton organ was sold and removed from the building. It was around this time that the facade was covered over with metal strips, in order to ‘modernise’ the building.
There was talk of the Odeon being converted into a twin-screen cinema, but these came to nothing. It was losing money, and the Rank Organisation closed the Odeon on 24th October 1981 with Burt Reynolds in “Cannonball Run” being the final film screened.
The building lay empty and unused for several years, and in October 1986 it was converted into use as a snooker club, which operated in 2008 as Riley’s Snooker Club.
In 2014, renovation work was begun to convert the building into a banquet suite and live performance venue. The pool hall continued to operate in the former foyer of the building for a while. In 2014, the metal cladding on the façade was removed and the original tiled façade was restored, including the re-instatement of the Majestic name sign. Plans for the lower part of the building now include a children’s play area, which opened September 2014. A June 2015 opening is planned for the 280-seat live theatre space in the rear of the former circle.