Crowds turn out for High Town flicks

CELEBRATIONS in High Town Road, Luton, in 1952 when the local cinema re-opened after 15 years. But the joy was to be short-lived.

Young cinema-goers gathered outside Plaza, but they must have been there for the children’s Saturday morning club. The movie being advertised at the entrance, The Venetian Bird, would certainly not have been considered suitable viewing.

Starring Richard Todd, Eva Bartok and John Gregson, this British thriller was the story of a private detective who travels to Venice to find an Italian who is to be rewarded for helping Allied airmen during the Second World War. But once he arrives, he becomes mixed up in an assassination.

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Eddie Grabham tells in his book, from Grand To Grove, how Plaza started life as the High Town Electric Picture Palace. It opened in 1912 and had 415 seats, including 84 on the balcony.

The cinema was enlarged to 493 seats when it was taken over by Palace Theatre (Luton) in 1927. After the name was changed to Plaza in 1931, the cinema closed in 1937 but re-opened in 1952 under the ownership of the small Allwood Circuit, which had five cinemas.

But Plaza closed again in April 1955 and ten years later the former cinema was bought by Luton Corporation for use as “slipper baths”, although this plan was never realised.

In 1967, the building was leased for three years to Grosvenor Car Sales. Now demolished, the site is part of a redevelopment which includes a car park and industrial units.

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