Opened in 1867 as the Tyne Theatre and Opera House. In 1919 it became a cinema, the Stoll Picture House, the name which can still be seen on the building front and side. Also just discernible on the bricks a large painted poster “Stoll Tynesides Talkie Theatre”.
One of only about twenty-three Grade One listed theatres in Great Britain, the theatre is also one of only ten that date to the Victorian period. The north part of the building is located within the boundary of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
The changing market for theatre during the First World War and the growing popularity of the movies brought about the closure of the theatre in 1917. The Stoll Picture Theatre opened on 2nd June 1919 with an opening presentation of ‘Tarzan of the Apes’. The Stoll Picture Theatre was the first cinema in Newcastle to show ‘talkies’.
the theatre thrived as a cinema through four decades but due to a rise in the popularity of television, the number of people going to the cinema declined during the 1960s and the Stoll cinema attempted to counter this by cornering a select market showing ‘X’ rated films. This did not help maintain the cinema and it closed on 23rd March 1974 after a bill of ‘Danish Bed and Board’.
In 1976, the Stoll Theatre Corporation agreed to lease the theatre to the Tyne Theatre Trust for 28 years. It was during the closure of the theatre and exploration of the building that the original 1867 stage machinery was discovered in situ and intact, along with the stage sets from the last show performed – all simply concealed behind the inserted cinema screen.
One of the most memorable performances for the Tyne Theatre & Opera House following its restoration in the 1970s was in the return of opera to the theatre with Tosca on the evening of the 6th May 1983, with Placido Domingo as the lead. The Northern Sinfonia of England filled the orchestra pit and was conducted by Robin Stapleton. At this time, the Bistro Bar was renamed ‘Tosca’s’.
The Theatre was sponsored by The Journal newspaper during the 2000s, until January 2012 and more recently by Mill Volvo. The Tyne Theatre and Opera House Preservation Trust became the freehold owner of the building in 2008.
A summary list (this list is not exhaustive) of some of the main performers, entertainers and speakers over the years includes:
Oscar Wilde, in 1885 spoke on Fashion;
William Gladstone spoke in 1891 (at 82 years of age) at the end of his political career – this was when extra seating was needed on the stage for the Newcastle Liberal Association;
Sarah Bernhardt performed at the Tyne Theatre three times from 1895
Richard Todd, 1978, star of The Dambusters and Robin Hood
Placido Domingo performed in Tosca, May 1983;
Dame Joan Sutherland performed in 1989.