1930s Cinemas

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The age of the 'Odeon'!

September, 1937 - Odeon Cinema - Morecambe, Lancs.

Modernist Britain version of Morecambe Odeon

Featuring in Modernist Britain's Streamline Moderne section this is one of the few cinemas that get the eye-catching and instantly recognisable 'golden' treatment - image courtesy & © of Modernist Britain

The Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe is noted for one of Britain's best Modernist buildings, the Midland Hotel. Within the town, however, is another important Modernist building. However, it is one that is somewhat forgotten, partly because of its more glamorous compatriot, but also because its state of repair is poor with the building seemingly unloved and overlooked. The building is the former Odeon Cinema, located on the corner of Thornton Road and Euston Road. The Odeon company can trace its origins back to 1930 when the firm formed by Oscar Deutsch (1893-1941) opened its first cinema bearing the Odeon name, at Perry Barr in the West Midlands, on 4 August 1930. The company saw its greatest period of expansion during the 1930s, as the increasing popularity of cinema-going allowed Deutsch to open in excess of 250 cinemas before the outbreak of the Second World War. Amongst those cinemas was the Odeon Morecambe, which opened in 1937.

As with so many other Odeon cinemas, the company employed the Weedon Partnership, led by Harry Weedon (1887-1970) to design the Morecambe cinema. Working with Calder Robson, with whom Weedon had also designed the Odeon Harrogate, the partnership produced a building in the Streamlined Moderne for Morecambe. The building employs many of the signature architectural elements that have come to characterise buildings of the Odeon cinema chain. Many of Odeon's cinemas occupy corner plots in Britain's towns and cities, including the Odeon Morecambe. However, the Odeon Morecambe is located away from the town's centre, a factor that played its part in the buildings later decline. The building does though occupy a prominent position at a main road junction into town, where its size compared to neighbouring buildings lends the former cinema an imposing presence.

The dominant feature of the Odeon Morecambe's design is a tall, brown-brick tower, with a curved end wall. Towers were frequently employed by Odeon, in a variety of forms. A tower was a prominent feature, a landmark, where the Odeon name could be displayed in a lofty position; Odeon recognised the marketing value of its cinema's designs. The tower is on the same alignment as Thornton Road, and abuts Euston Road. The building extends along Euston Road with a five-bay, two storey high elevation. The ground-floor is given over to shop units. Above, the facade is clad in brown brick and each bay has Crittal metal-framed windows. At the corner of the site is the entrance to the building. A curved-corner was a common design feature found at many other Odeon cinemas. Here at Morecambe five double-doors provide access into the foyer. The facade of the ground-floor entrance is clad in black faience with slender horizontal green-bands of faience. The entrance has a projecting canopy roof, with a curved parapet wall above, with five clerestory slit-windows illuminating the entrance foyer. The parapet is clad in biscuit-coloured faience, again with slender horizontal green-bands of faience.

Along Thornton Road there is a three-storey block, clad in black faience at its base, and biscuit-coloured faience above. The Thornton Road elevation is five bays wide, with chamfered corners. The elevation has a slender full-height window to the central bay and slit windows to the outer bays on the third storey. The uppermost faience of the block has three repeating slender horizontal green-bands of faience. Behind, the auditorium of the cinema rises for four-storeys with a delightful projecting walkway snaking its way from the tower, round the building, above the entrance parapet. The tower has two rows of slit windows, of three-bays, with prominent lintels above. The tower is topped by a projecting lip roof, and carries illuminated 'Odeon' lettering.

The cinema opened in September 1937 with seating capacity for 1,084 patrons in the stalls and 476 in the balcony. The cinema was sold by the Odeon chain after three decades, becoming the Classic cinema. It remained in use as a cinema for another seven years before it closed in February 1976. Since then the cinema has served as a D-I-Y store. Today, the walkway and windows are boarded or covered over, the canopy has been lost and the entrance walls clad with board. A large structure has been constructed on the roof of the tower and extraneous rendering applied to sections of brickwork. The building's original condition is illustrated at the top of this profile, in stark contrast to the photographs illustrating the building today. Although still recognisably the same building the external condition of the former cinema is in a poor state of repair. The building is not listed. Source: Modernist Britain

Source : cinematreasures.org/theaters/6067 - The Odeon was opened on 2nd September 1937 with Sandy Powell in “It’s a Grand Old World”. Built as one of the original Odeon’s in the chain operated by Oscar Deutsch, it had seating provided for 1,084 in the stalls and 476 in the circle. Taken over by the Classic Cinemas chain in December 1967, it was re-named Classic Cinema, and was closed on 28th February 1976 with Kenneth Williams in “Carry On Behind”. The stunning Moderne style exterior much of which including the projectionists walkway is now much deteriorated. Not in a prime location so not seen by many tourists to this seaside town. Now part of a dime a dozen DIY chain.

Morecambe Odeon then and now

With thanks to Waymarking.com for putting together the 'then and now' image

Atmospheric Odeon ain Morecambe

Stormy skies above what is left of the Morecambe Odeon circa 2012 - image courtesy & © of Cinema Treasures

Unusual angle of the Odeopn in Morecambe

Another very atmospheric view of the former Odeon in Morecambe showing the apparent neglect of this building which even now has not obtained a graded listing - image sourced from Robert Wade via Flickr

1937 - Odeon Cinema - Newport, Gwent

Newport Odeon Modernist Britain makeover

Featuring in Modernist Britain's Streamline Moderne section this is another of the few cinemas that get the eye-catching and instantly recognisable 'golden' treatment - image courtesy & © of Modernist Britain

The former Odeon Cinema, located on Clarence Place in Newport, Gwent, is a remarkable, surviving building from the Odeon Cinema chain. The chain, started by Oscar Deutsch with its first cinema in Perry Barr in Birmingham owned in excess of 250 cinemas prior to the Second World War. Modernist architecture was almost exclusively used by Deutsch; only local planning constraints in particularly sensitive locations - such as historic Chester and York - restricted the design ambitions of Deutsch's architects. Like many of the early Odeon cinemas the Odeon Newport was designed by the Weedon Partnership, with Arthur J Price assisting Harry Weedon in the execution of the design. Overall, the design bears a striking similarity to that of the Odeon at Sutton Coldfield, by Harry Weedon and Cecil Clavering. Again the design of the cinema was dominated by a central 'fin', although the 'Cinema' lettering at the top of the fin found at Sutton Coldfield was substituted with the Odeon name; perhaps the brand was considered sufficiently established enough that the name would speak for itself. In a departure from Sutton Coldfield, the fin featured projecting brick piers with horizontal, projecting brick bands.

To the left of the fin was a four-storey block with a tiled, faience frontage for the lower three storeys. The faience was placed in a 'basket-weave' style, providing some relief to the expanse of faience. Adjacent to the brick fin the windows feature a surround of black tiles, providing a horizontal emphasis to the frontage. To the left of these windows is a bay of smaller windows; the corner of the building has corner windows cut into the structure. Above the faience the Odeon name is attached in large illuminated lettering attached to more horizontal brick banding. To the other side of the fin, at ground floor level, is the main entrance forming a chamfered curve to the right-most extent of the building. Above the projecting canopy the chamfered frontage features the same basket-weave faience. Behind, at right-angles to the fin is the curved eastern wing of the building, featuring porthole style windows and slot windows below the roof line with a larger window below. Above and behind, the wall built up to obscure the auditorium roof features the same horizontal brick banding as used elsewhere on the frontage.

The cinema was closed in May 1981 and remained empty for over twenty years. It was subsequently used as a snooker hall, night club, church and live music venue; none provided a sustainable use for the building. The building is currently vacant and is no longer part of the Odeon chain. The building was awarded Grade-II listed status on 12 March 1999. Source : Modernist Britain

RIBA - Architect/Designer - Weedon, Harry William (1887-1970) Closed as a cinema in 1981, this building reopened as a snooker hall c.1986. This closed in 1991. It was then briefly used by the Capones American Bar nightclub. Facing the prospect of demolition, this building being one of the only true examples of Art Deco architecture in the town was designated Grade II listed status in 1991. The building was restored in 2003 and reopened as the Newport City Live Arena in 2004. In early 2010 the building had been taken over to be developed into a museum of cinema and television equipment history.

Newport Cinema as a Church

As mentioned above, the cinema became a Church up to 1999 - image sourced & © of Geograph circa 1999

Left unoccupied Newport Odeon after 2009

Left empty after being abandoned by Newport City Church - image sourced & © of Geograph circa 1999

Under wraps Odeon Newport awaiting restoration

Restoration work is underway in 2012 - Restoration of former Odeon Cinema, Newport. This early June 2012 view shows scaffolding on the former cinema during restoration work on its Art Deco exterior, a typical Odeon design of the 1930s. After restoration, the building will reopen as a cinematic museum and community facility. Image sourced & © of Geograph

Newport Odeon in 2014

Image dated 13th June 2014 and sourced from ipernity

Odeon at Newport restored

The former cinema a few months ago looking as if the exterior restoration had been successfully accomplished - 'On December 6th 2016, a banner states that Bad Manners (a ska band) and a special guest will be appearing here at The Neon (formerly an Odeon cinema) on Thursday December 15th 2016' - image & dialogue source & © of Geograph

An unusual angle sourced from Wikimapia.org - it reminds me of the view we get when visiting Morecambe of the Odeon which now doubles up as a DIY store

Cinemas celebrating their 80th Anniversary in 2016

Cinemas celebrating 80th anniversaries in 2016

Image courtesy & © of Cinema Treasures.org

Cinemas Lost

Read an excellent Daily Mail article from 2009

2nd November, 1936 - The Byron Cinema in Hucknall

Not an Odeon Cinema as it was privately commissioned, but the plans for the design would not have shamed any Oscar Deutsch original! Whether funding ran out or for whatever reason, the tiled finish signature so beloved by the streamline moderne style did not make it to cover and protect the brickwork. For full details and history of the Byron read more here

NEP Front Page Byron Preview

Architect, Alfred Thraves held true to the spectacular illustration which graced the front of the Souvenir Programme but only an aerial shot of the cinema reveals its astonishing and striking presence in the town.

Front of the Souvenir Programme

The architects vision of the Byron Super Cinema

Fragment from the aeriel view

Byron  as seen from the air

The Byron, in full splendour, situated on the corner of the High Street at about the time of its opening

9th September, 1936 - 'Odeon' Muswell Hill opens

Odeon, Muswell Hill 1936 under constructionOdeon, Muswell Hill 1936 completed

The 'Odeon' Muswell Hill under construction (left - image courtesy of Bowes & Bounds via modernism in metroland) and completed (right - image courtesy of Modern Tourists)

Exterior of Odeon Muswell Hill 1936Grand Opening Odeon Muswell Hill

A view of the front of the cinema and a window display with photographs of the stars appearing at the opening ceremony of the cinema on September 9th 1936 - images courtesy & © of Viewfinder.historicengland

Then and now images of the Odeon Muswell Hill

'Then and Now' image of the via Odeon Cinema, Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill, London taken in 1936 and today (Picture: englishheritagearchives.org.uk/google) courtesy of Metro.co.uk

Muswell Hill Odeon (1936) by George Coles. Grade II* listed cinema by renowned Odeon chain architect George Coles. Due to the complaints of residents, Coles toned down the designs for the original exterior appearance, and increased the lavish interior to accommodate.

From Historic England (I couldn't let the reference to 'Things to Come' pass by) - Cinema. 1935-6 by George Coles for the Muswell Hill and Harlesden Property Company, of which Oscar Deutsch of Odeon Cinemas was a director. Red brick, the cinema facade clad in black and cream faience tiles. Flat asphalted roof. The cinema is tucked on to Fortis Green Road because the prominent corner site originally intended was opposed by members of the church opposite. Cinema with double-height foyer and circular inner foyers on 2 levels leads to double-height cinema auditorium with balcony set to the rear of the flats. The area under the balcony subdivided into smaller screens in 1974. The curve of the foyer and circular inner foyer discreetly turn the customer through some ninety degrees into the auditorium. Because of the church's opposition, the facade of the cinema was deliberately made relatively low-key. Curved centrepiece with vertical fins, stepped up to centre, between blind projecting end bays clad in contrasting black faience. No fenestration, just 5 pairs of original double doors with margin-light glazing to one side and central transom. The outmost pairs separated by walls for billboards and projecting curved rib. The name ODEON in neon affixed to the parapet. Double-height foyer with curved ends, having paired columns at either side with banded decoration reminiscent of the film set of 'Things to Come' made in 1935. Banded motif to walls. Staircase to right incorporating further horizontal detailing. Coved ceiling lighting. At top of staircase circular landing with similar coved circular ceiling opening and central circular lighting. On ground floor vestibule leads to inner vestibule formed of former rear stalls area leading to 2 smaller cinemas inserted under the balcony in May 1974. At first floor original double doors lead to inner vestibule originally intended as a tearoom and now a bar, with 2 large columns and sloping ceiling, with horizontal grillework on wall to auditorium. From the centre of this wall, doors and stairs lead to auditorium. Double-height auditorium with balcony, whose curved front complements the steep curve of the front wall to the proscenium, which has moulded horizontal and vertical bands. Horizontal banding on ante-proscenium contrasts with 3 stepped rounded pilasters, concealing coved lighting. The side walls also moulded with horizontal bands and vertical accents, the whole styled on the lines of German cinemas of the late 1920s.

The foyer and pay box Odeon Muswell HillThe pay box Odeon Muswell Hill

l to r - The foyer and pay box / Pay box (1936)

The confectionary stand Odeon Muswell Hill A view from the staircase Odeon Muswell Hill

l to r - The confectionary stall and a view from the staircase (1936)

The orchestra rail Odeon Muswell Hill

The Orchestra Rail

The Circle Foyer Odeon Muswell Hill

The Circle Foyer

Images of the interior courtesy & © of Viewfinder.historicengland from the John Maltby* collection
*Odeon cinema collection. John Maltby (1910-80) was a professional photographer. In 1935 he was commissioned to photograph every cinema in the Odeon chain.

Central laylight between ribs of separate small lights designed to resemble a roll of film running down to the proscenium. Banded decoration to side of ceiling, forming deep cornice. Odeon clocks over exit doors to either side of proscenium, and orchestra pit in front area of stalls no longer used. Bronzed handrails round central vomitory, and metal crush barriers remain in stepped seated balcony. The Odeon, Muswell Hill, is the most elaborate interior of any Odeon cinema to survive. Because of the restrictions placed on the external facade, the opportunity was taken to make the interior more lavish than was usual in the Odeon circuit, and the result is an elegant design of unusual imagination and crispness. With the New Victoria, City of Westminster, the Odeon Muswell Hill best demonstrates the influence of German expressionism in British cinema design. As all the most famous German models have been gutted or demolished, the English examples are particularly important. The style was adopted in Britain as a more sophisticated alternative to the historicist pastiches employed in cinemas of the late 1920s and early 1930s, and one more suited to the middle-class clientele of Muswell Hill. The style of the cinema, with its contrasting faience motifs, is continued in the adjoining shops and flats. (Sources: Atwell D: Cathedral of the Movies: 1979; 150-: Gray R: Cinemas in Britain: 1996, P9) - Source : Historic England Read more : Cinema Treasures | Local History

20th May, 1936 - 'Odeon' Well Hall, Eltham opens

Well Hall Odeon 1936

The Odeon cinema on Well Hall Road. The cinema opened in 1936 to the designs of Andrew Mather, a specialist in cinema architecture

Lobby of Odeon at Well Hall 1936

The entrance foyer (1936)

Images courtesy & © of Viewfinder.historicengland from the John Maltby* collection
*Odeon cinema collection. John Maltby (1910-80) was a professional photographer. In 1935 he was commissioned to photograph every cinema in the Odeon chain.

Odeon opening Well Hall, Eltham souvenir programme

Those were the days when you got a souvenir programme when you attended a grand opening of a cinema.

22nd July, 1935 - Odeon at Kingstanding, Birmingham opens

Alternative view of Odeon at Kingstanding

Odeon at Kingstanding Birmingham

Images of the Odeon likely on its opening night in 1935 - courtesy & © of Cinema Treasures

Located in Kingstanding, a district near Sutton Coldfield to the north of Birmingham, the Odeon stands on a prominent site at the intersection of several roads. Originally this was planned to be an independent cinema, to be known as the Beacon Cinema. Oscar Deutsch got involved during its construction and it opened as one of his original Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain. The Odeon opened on 22nd July 1935 with Gary Cooper in "Lives of a Bengal Lancer". The exterior of the building is considered to be a quintessential Art Deco ‘Odeon’ style. There are rounded corners a central bay which is covered with cream faiance tiles and a slender vertical fin-tower, which originally had letters on top, horizontally spelling out ‘CINEMA’. After viewing the magnificent exterior, the inside of the building is little bit of a let down. Seating was provided in a semi-stadium plan, with the circle having virtually no overhang to the stalls. There were 968 seats in the stalls and 324 in the circle. The ceiling had square Art Deco style light fittings, but was otherwise plain, as were the side-walls apart from a few decorative grilles.

Auditorium of the Odeon Kingstanding

Projected entrance hall of the Odeon Lingstanding

Auditorium and projected entrance hall in the accepted style of the generic Odeon 'label' images sourced from Cinema Treasures

The Odeon closed on 1st December 1962 with the 1955 film; Audie Murphy in "To Hell and Back". It was converted into a Top Rank Bingo Club, which today is a Mecca Bingo Club. The Odeon is a Grade II Listed building. Source : Cinema Treasures

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