The Weymouth Pavilion, formerly the Ritz, is a theatre in Weymouth, Dorset. The complex contains a 988 seat theatre, 600 (maximum) capacity ballroom known as the Ocean Room, the Piano Bar restaurant, Ritz Cafe and other function and meeting rooms.
Originally constructed in 1908, it was destroyed in a building fire in 1954 and the current theatre was built in its place in 1958. The theatre was owned and operated by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council until 2013 and is now operated by a not-for-profit Community Interest Company. The theatre is located on Weymouth Pier, a peninsula of land reclaimed from the sea between Weymouth Harbour and Weymouth Beach. The newly built Jurassic Skyline Tower is also located in this area.
The Pavilion had its grand opening on 21 December 1908, and included the presence of the Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury. A special train from London bought down metropolitan journalists. Two nights later the venue hosted its first performance, a Christmas pantomime, Mother Goose. The Pavilion’s mainstay during the early years was the Pavilion Orchestra under Mr John Howgill, who would put on concerts in the theatre and performed in the Tea rooms. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 brought major changes to the Pavilion as the town council came to the decision that they should not be running the venue and therefore leased it to Ernest Wheeler – a member of a prominent business family in Weymouth. Wheeler carried on leasing the building for the next 25 years. During the 1920s and 1930s, the venue hosted a mixture of events including musical comedies and matinee performances of operatic arias. During the 1930s, Wheeler decided to review his operations at the Pavilion, due to the increasing competition from the Alexandra Gardens Theatre, which had opened in 1925, as well as the changing of public taste. As a result, Wheeler got the Town Council to agree to the adaptation of the Pavilion auditorium to enable him to screen films. This was accepted and the Pavilion became a popular cinema in the town. Around this time, although sometimes reputed to be during the 1950s, some additional land reclamation allowed the area to be extended, and the venue’s length was extended.
The Pavilion closed during the Second World War as it was requisitioned by the military for war purposes, largely for the newly formed No. 4 Commando, who formed in Weymouth on 21 July 1940, when the first intake of 500 volunteers arrived. Lieutenant Colonel C.P.D Legard and the Regimental Sergeant Major W. Morris held their first parade on 22 July 1940, at Weymouth Pavilion. In 1940 it was used to house 800 Moroccans from the French army and was then later used as a medical centre during the evacuation of the Channel Islands. During the war, military authorities put forward the idea of demolishing the building under defence regulations, however this plan never came to fruition. The venue was damaged in an air raid in April 1942 and was then taken over by the Admiralty. After the end of the war, the building remained in use of the Admiralty, and was used as a sorting office for naval post. The Town Council did not get the building back until 1947, who then spent two years attempting to get compensation for building damage during its use in the war.