Majestic. Remembering the Odeon Cinema in Darlington

by Matt Falcus

Still standing proud on Bondgate in Darlington is the Majestic – a family fun and live entertainment venue which proves popular with the people of the town.

However, for people of a certain age they will remember this building’s former use as a cinema.

Opened as the Majestic in December 1932, this was one of the growing number of purpose-built cinemas opening up at towns across the country as the ‘talkies’ craze took over.

In fact, this was Darlington’s sixth cinema, which shows just how much demand there was for this type of venue.

The first film shown here was “The Maid of the Mountains” on Boxing Day, no less, and it played to a sell-out crowd.

The cinema featured the latest technology to ensure impressive sound and audio experiences for punters, who could sit in one of the 1,600 seats in the auditorium.

Up front, an impressive organ allowed musical accompaniment to films.

Fitted out with a full stage and dressing rooms, the Majestic could also double up as a live entertainment venue, and it often did. Live shows regularly featured on the bill, as did radio broadcasts.

At the front, a popular café was situated upstairs on the balcony.



Art Deco Style


The Majestic was built in the Art-Deco style which was so popular of the 1930s, with a grand frontage on Bondgate masking the somewhat ordinary brick shell behind.

In 1943 the Majestic was sold to the Rank cinema chain, becoming part of the Odeon brand which was growing across the country.

C002 1680 Bondgate looking towards High Row, St Augustines Way under construction just beyond the Odeon.

It remained in this use, taking on an ugly metal cladding at the front.

Finally, on 24 October 1981 the last film was shown and the cinema closed down.



The Majestic Today

Following its closure, the Majestic lay empty for a while, then reopened as a pool and snooker venue.

After this use, the old cinema once again closed down and remained empty while plans to turn it into an entertainment venue once again took shape.

In 2015 it reopened as the Majestic, with the metal cladding finally removed and the original exterior restored to its former glory.

Today, inside is a large children’s soft play facility in the former stage area, with seating and a café in the auditorium.

Upstairs, the balcony has been converted into a small theatre with stage and seating.

Thankfully much of the original Art Deco interior and decorative features still remain and have been restored, as can be seen from these images.

The interior retains many traces and the shape of its cinema use, and is a reminder of the glory days of cinemas across the region.



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