Gem Cinema

Tindal Street,
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 5QE

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Gem Cinema

Just outside Newcastle upon Tyne city centre, St. Paul’s Church was built in 1841, later becoming a Congregational church followed by use as a recreation centre for the unemployed.

In December 1932 plans were submitted to the city council for conversion to a cinema. This was largely a matter of adding a brick and concrete annexe to the west end, to house a foyer with projection suite above. The original windows were bricked up, but the bell tower remained. The new cinema, the Gem Cinema, continued to look much like a church - especially as it was surrounded by a graveyard!

The plans showed seating for 630 (456 in the stalls and 174 in the balcony). Following an unexplained delay, the Gem Cinema opened on 8th January 1934. Almost immediately, 24 double seats were added to the balcony, and other adjustments saw the seating capacity increased to 680.

Programmes were initially twice nightly, but soon changed to continuous from 6pm. There were children’s matinees on Saturday, and three changes of programme each week.

In 1934-35, in addition to the films, Tuesday night was Variety Night. Later on, Tuesday became Adult Variety Night, while Wednesday became Juvenile Variety Night.

It seems the Gem Cinema developed into the archetypal ‘fleapit’, with a chorus of disapproval sounding out when (not, it seems, “if”) the films broke!

Despite this, the Gem Cinema soldiered on until closure on 29th October 1960. However, this wasn’t quite the end: in April 1961 it re-opened, with seating reduced to 540, showing Asian films each Wednesday and Thursday. On other nights it was a bingo club.

This use ended in August 1967, after which the building was demolished.

Contributed by David Simpson
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