A LANDMARK building in Rugby that has been in the town since 1933 and has seen the likes of the legendary Rolling Stones play has come to the end of its long and colourful life.
The move has evoked many emotions for thousands of people who enjoyed films, gigs and later bingo at the North Street building, which started life as the Plaza theatre.
Frank Newman was the organist and musical director and entertained theatre goers from its opening until he left in 1936.
His son Anthony, 83, who lives in Rugby, spent some of the happiest times of his life at the Plaza.
“The demolition of the Gala Bingo Hall saddens me because for me it will always be the Plaza cinema,” he said. “Indeed the Plaza was the reason my parents, Frank and Dorothy, moved to Rugby in 1932.”
“Frank had to be permanently in the building from the time it opened to the public until the performance ended. The only way I could be with my Dad was to be with him in his dressing room,” said Anthony.
“Spending time at the Plaza with my Father were some of the best times of my life. When you get to my age all you have is memories. They were such special times.”
Frank had to play the organ not just for his own performance but also to link all films – two feature films, the news and the trailers.
He also had to be ready to fill in if the film projector broke down.
Anthony said: “I sometimes used to sit beside him on the organ seat while he played the ‘links’ and I watched his performance from the wings. The organ would rise up from the pit and a spotlight shone on him, while the stage was beautifully decorated with drapes and coloured lighting arranged by the resident stage manager Jimmy Bunker.”
Frank also broadcast two or three times a week from the Plaza on the Midland Home Service.
The organ was a Christie designed by another famous organist Reginald Foort.
The Plaza was built in the gardens of Northfield House and was opened by Mayor McKinnell.
After the Second World War it became The Granada cinema and in the 1970s the last cinema closed and became the Granada Bingo Social Club and then Gala Bingo. The post-war period was the heyday of the Granada pantomimes and in 1950, up-and-coming comic Benny Hill starred in Jack and the Beanstalk in Rugby.
Anthony was shocked to see the building that was so close to his heart being bulldozed.
He said: “I was getting a bus to Coventry and saw the building being taken down. It looked like bomb damage.”
The site has been proposed as a retail allocation in Rugby Borough Council’s Core Strategy.
Anthony added: “During his time at the Plaza my father made several recordings and these are luckily preserved on CDs. So the building may be going to disappear but my father’s music will live on.”
n See www.rugbyadvertiser.co.uk for feature and music by Frank Newman.
To order a copy of the organ CD, telephone Poppy Records on 01225 335974.