The Plaza: When the penny drops
“Every day is 7th October 1932”
... says Ted Doan, General Manager at The Plaza, the date when the art deco theatre first opened
The Plaza's General Manager, Ted Doan
The design of The Plaza was attributed to architect William Thornley with the purpose of providing a super cinema and variety theatre to the people of Stockport and beyond. “It was democratic and inclusive. Previously you had theatres and music halls and there was a division of class. The Plaza was a glamorous, elegant venue, welcoming everyone,” says Ted Doan.
With 1,314 seats upholstered in blue and gold moquette cladding in an auditorium influenced by Egypt and a Mediterranean garden, it is pure Hollywood glamour. The curtains are appliqued with a bee and hollyhocks and the magnificent Compton Organ rises up from the stage for all to see and hear.
More than three decades of performance took place at The Plaza, continuing through the Second World War, where it was considered a safe place as the design of the building means the stage is located beneath street level.
When the air raid sirens went off, guests were asked to leave and go into the nearby shelter. Performers would then entertain them before resuming their show on stage when the all-clear was given.
The venue declined in the 1960s, but, in 2000, the Plaza was saved by The Stockport Plaza Trust with support from Stockport Council and has undergone a loving restoration. It is now a busy and atmospheric landmark in the town centre.
Ted has seen The Plaza go from strength to strength with a willing team of volunteers, Board of Directors and some high-profile patrons including The Right Honourable Baroness Bakewell DBE, Sir Ken Dodd OBE and Leslie Phillips CBE.
“Seeing Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney talk on stage about his career was quite something. He was sitting on stage in this beautiful building which was built to show films that he starred in. There was one moment where he was watching a clip of himself alongside Ava Gardner on our screen. That was just magical,” says Ted.
The projection room is home to classic projectors including a KALEE 8, which features a turntable. The first talkies and other classic films would be screened through machines like this one.
“The phrase ‘the penny has dropped’ is thought to come from the history of projection. Projectionists would place a penny in the reel and when they heard it drop they knew it was time to change it!” says Ted. “It is a fairytale working here. The building is a huzzah for architecture, internationally significant, and it is great that it is in Stockport.”