LOCATION: Radway Place.
OPENED: 25th June 1928
ARCHITECT: P E Steadman.
NAME CHANGE: The Palace 1936-1937
ALTERATIONS: Cinema use – 1929, 1954 & 1966
PRESENT USE: Cinema.
The Radway was originally conceived as a public hall, with a flat, maple dance floor, stage and balcony. At the final stages of design the architect was asked by the owners and developers, Radway Estates, to re-design the building as a theatre. This he did, completely changing the frontage to make it more prominent from the adjacent parade of shops.A projection and re-wind room were added to the rear of the balcony near the roof. The stage was 22 feet deep, set behind a wooden plaster moulded proscenium which was 27 feet wide. There were four dressing rooms at the rear, a large scenery door in the stage right wall but no fly tower was added.
The barrel-vaulted ceiling has an unusual patterned-pressed tin design, a feature which survives today. The original seating was for 680. The dance floor was kept, and used, the stalls seating could be stored in a room under the stage. The opening preparations seem to have been rushed. For example, Mr Steadman, the architect, held a dance event the Saturday before the official opening, and then after the first week’s performance, the theatre was closed for a week for decoration to be completed.
It settled down with a very busy and full first year if stage shows. However, the new ‘Talkie’ boom arrived and the stalls were re-seated in plush red tip-up seats, projectors and screen were installed and the Radway started to show films from 1929. The stage continued to be used, especially during the early 30’s and during the Second World War it was regularly used for many types of shows. However, into the 1950’s films were shown more often than theatre shows and after the Grand Cinema burnt down in 1956 it became Sidmouth’s only cinema. The stage has been kept but the proscenium widened for Cinemascope in 1954 and again in 1966 when the present wall-to-wall curtaining was added. The last stage performance was for the Folk Festival in 1985.