The Apollo in Hammersmith was originally conceived by Israel Davis, shortly after he opened the huge Davis Theatre in Croydon. Carnford lodge, the headquarters of the District Nursing Association and the Six Bells public house previously occupied the site. Built to a design by Robert Cromie the venue opened in 1932 under the name the ‘Gaumont Palace’. Then exclusively a cinema, the first film to be shown was ‘A Night like This’ starring Tom Walls. The capacity, including standing room, was almost four thousand. As was customary before the movie, the crowd were entertained by the Gaumont Palace Symphony Orchestra and a stage show. A colossal pipe organ was the backbone of the orchestra and plans are currently underway to return the organ to the building over the next few years. Unusually cinema goers were invited to enjoy a ‘cinema supper’ form the on-site restaurant at a cost of seven pence.
The stage was sixty feet by thirty feet and the venue boasted twenty dressing rooms. The girder which supports the balcony weighs in excess of fifty tonnes! The buildings façade is the widest in the country at over 190 feet.
Over the decades the Apollo has host the world’s finest musical acts including the Beatles, Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. The Apollo became a grade II listed building in 1990. The last motion picture to be shown at the Apollo was ‘Blue Thunder’ in 1994. The Apollo was overhauled in 1995 in preparation of the arrival of ‘Riverdance’.
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We once saw the Wu-Tang Clan at Hammersmith Apollo. It was terrible. But that is no reason to hate on the venue itself, which is one of those old, barely developed, classic concert venues. Built in the 1930’s as a music hall, it still has balcony seating, which is always good to go for if you value a view over dancing in a crowd.