Page updated 30th June 2012
What would become the Palladium Cinema, opened as the Queen's Hall, a variety, dance and cinema venue, on the 7th September 1912 with seating for 1,100 people. When it presented “Dante’s Infemo”, in January 1913, they banned anyone who was under 16 from attending the show so as not to corrupt the young. At Christmas 1914, it showed a film of a pantomime.
In December 1913, the Queen's Hall was taken over by Mr Albany Ward who already ran 34 cinemas across the West of England, with the intention of showing films with interspersed variety items. George Leacey, the late lessee and manager was retained as the manager for the new venture. Workmen for Albany Ward immediately set to work to improve the interior, and added a four foot rake to the auditorium, added tip up seating and new carpets throughout. The walls were painted and stenciled. Electric lighting was added throughout, while an 18hp engine was installed to power the Bioscope projector. There were three performances a day, at 3, 7 and 9pm with seats for 3d at the front, 6d in the centre, 9d at the rear, and 1 shilling for the balcony which could be reserved. Mr Archibald Lucas was the architect for Albany Ward.
Despite the ban on Sunday cinema, the new cinema opened on Christmas Day 1914 to the 3000 ft pantomime film Robinson Crusoe, supported by Beautiful Winter. There were also cartoons and a bi-weekly Gazette. As promised, there were live variety acts such as the flying trapeze artists known as the Clements, and Walsh and Ono in a sketch called 'The Lady and the Chauffeur.'
The Palladium also experimented with talkies at this time, using a phonograph. In February 1916, the cinema acquired the exclusive rights to showing Charlie Chaplin films in Exeter. In 1921 Albany Ward renamed it the Palladium with new seating for 800, installing a glass covered canopy over the pavement, a feature found in many of their cinemas.
In 1927, the cinema was absorbed into the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres group, where Albany Ward remained in control of its west country theatres. In 1930, RCA sound equipment was installed under a leasing arrangement.
The Gaumont was part of the same group, when it opened in competition in 1932 - the Palladium continued its performances until it was closed and was 'taken over for national purposes' sometime in 1941. It was used for the storage of canned meat and grain. The Palladium Buildings were gutted by fire on the night of the 4th May 1942 blitz.
A report in 1946 in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette stated that the canned meat was damaged, but salvable due to it being in the basement, with the grain stored on the floor above. During the fire, the grain fell through, covering the cans, and insulating them from the heat. It is not certain if the building was later refurbished for an other use, before demolition in the 1950's.
Sources: Flying Post, Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, Bill Douglas (Exeter University) website.
Children queuing outside the Palladium in 1938.Photo courtesy of Keith Saunders Fighting the flames at the Palladium, May 1942.
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