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GRAND THEATRE

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The Grand Theatre was opened on 23 July 1894, by Thomas Sergenson, Blackpool's first successful theatrical manager. Designed by Frank Matcham, the auditorium is regarded as one of his finest in that it combines intimacy with a sense of imposing spaciousness. This was achieved by stacking the audience vertically in three closely spaced, relatively shallow, balconies which curve well round the sides, separated from the proscenium by only one box on either side at dress circle level. The boxes are surmounted by an elaborate arched and pedimented canopy rising above the level of the gallery front. The exterior of the theatre is of plain brickwork, apart from the Baroque three-storey corner entrance block in stone. The theatre took just nine months to build and cost Sergenson 20,000 pounds, part of which he had earned by operating two small rented theatres and from a circus that he staged for five summer seasons on the site of The Grand. In 1909 he sold the theatre to the Blackpool Tower Company, who ran The Grand for the next sixty-two years. In the 1930s, with the success of talking pictures, The Grand became a cinema in winter and staged 'live' shows during the holiday season. When the Tower Company began to build the new Blackpool Opera House in 1938, The Grand was returned to its role as an all-year playhouse.
During World War II the Grand thrived and attracted many stars from London including Sir John Gielgud, John Mills, Vivian Leigh and Noel Coward. The theatre prospered well into the 1950s before competition from television resulted in a policy of winter closure from 1963. In July 1972 the Tower Company applied for permission to demolish the theatre and build a department store. After successfully seeing of this threat, The Grand is now owned by a Trust which has run as a successful touring house since 1981.

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