Blackpool Grand Theatre

 

Blackpool Grand Theatre Opening Times

Opening times at the Blackpool Grand Theatre vary depending the show running. Generally it is open from 10am until 8pm, but will close at 6pm all week and 4pm on a Sunday if there are no shows on.

How to get to the Grand Theatre when staying at the Pearl Hotel, Blackpool

The Grand Theatre is only half a mile away from the Pearl Hotel, so many guests choose to stay with us for their bed and breakfast.

It’s a 2 minute drive heading north east taking your 1st left onto S Kings St
another left at Adelaide St
then a right onto Coronation St
another left and you’re there

When the weather is good, it’s a nice two minute walk away, practically in a straight line. Leaving the hotel you head southwest onto Coronation St, following that road all the way along, turn left and you will see the Theatre!

The closest car park is West Street Car Park right opposite the Theatre, above British Home Stores. This is recommended as it has CCTV, has just been refurbished and is open until 12.30am. You can purchase a discounted ‘Show and Park’ ticket from the box office, which only costs £2.50 and allows you to park from 5.30pm until 12.30am.

What to do at the Blackpool Grand Theatre

Well, as you can imagine, there are different shows happening throughout the year. There’s a huge variety, ranging from opera, musicals and dance, through to comedies, dramas and children’s shows. The theatre itself is a very impressive building that seats 1100 and is just as spectacular to see as any of the shows!

As with any Theatre it is always best to have a look online to see what performances are on, and it also has an online shop that allows you to purchase cheaper tickets as well as DVDs and show merchandise.

Whether you live here or are on holiday, the Blackpool Grand Theatre is a must!

History of the Blackpool Grand Theatre

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool was opened in 1894. It was designed by Frank Matcham, an English theatrical architect whose other work includes the London Palladium.

It cost £20k and took seven to nine  months to construct – depending which account you read.

Matcham was commissioned by impressario, Thomas Sergenson, with the brief to build ‘the prettiest theatre in the land’. To achieve this, Matcham’s innovative four tier cantilever design meant that there were fewer pillars. This meant that there are no obstructed views of the stage for the 1053 seats in the auditorium.  Something which can be very frustrating in many other theatres.

The opening performance at the Blackpool Grand Theatre was Hamlet by Wilson Barrett, a leading actor-manager who had often appeared in Blackpool. But this was followed a few weeks later, by a performance of the same play by the famous actor, Herbert Beerbohm Tree.  These were interspersed with musicals and comedy from stars like Sarah Bernhardt, Lily Langtry and Ellen Terry.

In 1909, Sergenson sold the theatre to the Blackpool Tower company for over twice what it had cost him to build it.  They were in charge for the next six decades.

The Grand stayed open during World War One and throughout the 1920s, continuing to offer hit musicals from both America and London.  In fact many plays and musicals were first seen at The Grand, prior to their London premieres.

With the advent of talking pictures and up until the Tower Company built their new Blackpool Opera House in 1938, The Grand began to alternate between being a cinema in winter months and staging live shows during the holiday season.  Gracie Fields made all her Blackpool Variety appearances from 1932 to 1938 here.

World War Two was in full swing, but the stars still came to The Grand.  Blackpool was beyond the reach of the German bombers.  1940 saw the first summer season show.  It was a ‘variety revue’ featuring a local comedian called Harry Korris.  But, after that, there were performances from such famous celebrities of the time as Edith Evans, Vivien Leigh, Robert Donat, John Mills and John Gielgud.  Noel Coward premiered Present Laughter and This Happy Breed in October 1942.

In the 1950s was the heyday of the Blackpool Summer Season.  The BBC’s Blackpool: Big Night Out reminded us of the playground in the North where many comedians made their careers. All the top stars, like Tommy Cooper, Ken Dodd, Cannon and Ball, Hilda Baker, Keith Harris and Orville came.  They would do two shows per night at around 6 and 8.30 and most would sell out for their entire 16 week run.

Ken Dodd remembers that when he first came to Blackpool in 1955, there were 22 shows from Fleetwood to Lytham St Annes employing nearly 3,000 people, musicians, dancers, singers, jugglers, comedians.

Keith Haris said his family would arrive on the Sunday and his dad would queue all day Monday at all the box offices to get tickets so they could see one or two shows per day. Everyone did it!  Besides the Grand Theatre, Blackpool had the three piers – south, north and central, the ABC,  the Winter Gardens and the Opera House – not forgetting the Blackpool Tower Circus.  But, if you didn’t get there early, every show would be sold out.

Blackpool Grand Theatre – Landladies Night

Little and Large talked about Blackpool’s Landladies Night. They didn’t specify which venue or if there was one at all the venues so we cannot confirm that it happened at The Grand. However, they stressed that they got particularly nervous in front of the landladies from the bed and breakfasts, guest houses and hotels, who took up the first 10/15 rows of the theatre. If you did a good show, the landladies would recommend you to their visitors. They didn’t come to laugh, but to judge – they were the real critics. And if the bed and breakfast landladies left in their droves saying a show was fantastic, what they said counted.

The shining pay packets offered by television had a major effect on these vintage events and, whilst the Grand Theatre survived longer than most because it had the backing of the Tower Company, it had to close during the winter from 1963. Later, even the summer season was abandoned. The big stars didn’t want to come and spend weeks in Blackpool when they could earn far more for a few hours work in front of the cameras.

Things went from bad to worse when the Tower Company applied for permission to demolish the theatre in 1972 and put up a department store instead. Fortunately, it had become a Grade II listed building – one of only nine large theatres to the north of London and in the top 8% of all listed buildings in England. The resulting public enquiry meant that The Friends of The Grand – local people, the Local Authority and national theatre celebrities – could put together the case to keep the now disused building.

The Grand’s owners were now EMI and, in 1975, they refurbished the building so that it could be used as a bingo hall. After a couple of years, a financial package was put together which allowed The Friends of The Grand, supported by Blackpool Borough Council, to complete a staged purchase on 1 October 1980. They became a registered charity known as the Blackpool Grand Theatre Trust Limited

On 23 March 1981, the refurbished theatre reopened with a performance of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice featuring Timothy West and Prunella Scales from the Old Vic company. In the May, Prince Charles was present for the Royal Variety Performance and the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company performed their Gilbert & Sullivan operettas for two weeks

The restoration work has continued over the years without ever having to close the theatre, which sees regular visits from the Northern Ballety Theatre and London City Ballet, annual concerts by The Halle and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestras.

Highlights for the last few months of 2013 include a diverse programme of entertainment ranging from Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap to the Brighouse and Raistrick Band, Aida to children’s show Bananas in Pyjamas. In keeping with its oldest traditions, there are also comedians, Bill Bailey and Milton Jones.

And coming full circle, old favourite, Ken Dodd also returns.