Monday, 14 January 2008

Now Not Showing

The first film I ever saw at a cinema was here at the Odeon. It was 1982 and it was E.T, I was only small, so I don't remember much about it. My Uncle took me, it was Shrove Tuesday and when I got home I had pancakes. My Uncle likes embarrassing me by telling how I was more interested in the folding seats and the curtains (remember when cinema screens had curtains?) and how I was crying at the end!

The Odeon Cinema closed on the 5th November 2006 after 70 years in business. It was built on the site of the former Highbury Congregational Church in Winchcombe Street, the church was demolished in 1932. The art-deco building was originally called the Gaumont Palace Cinema, then changed to the Odeon a few years later. The cinema had just one large auditorium and hosted many live acts including the Beatles and, in 1964, The Rolling Stones (guitarist Brian Jones was born in Cheltenham). As demand for more films grew the cinema increased its screens to three and then more recently seven, dividing the huge Screen One (where I saw E.T) into three. Cheltenham used to have seven cinemas but over time only the Odeon survived. The main reason for its closure was the success of the Cineworld Multiplex at the Brewery development, it just couldn't compete.

Its sad to see this once great building lying empty and derelict. The site was purchased by Trinity Church for its expanding congregation for £2.5 million, with plans drawn up for redevelopment costing another £2.5 million! As yet nothing has started, though a local night club is now interested in the site.

And I still cry at the end of E.T!


Unknown said...

Our Odeon closed around 6 years ago & remains empty. There were plans last year to build a hotel on the site, but they were withdrawn, due to the number of objections.


It's a disgrace that the Odeon was closed down. I too have many happy experiences of watching films there. I used to attend press screenings and would have many a happy drink after with the manager Nick Egginton.

I saw ET at the Cannon Cinema (formerly Classic Cinema) in Tunbridge Wells. It too has closed down. I too cried at the end of it...then again I was only 5! Great film though. The memory stayed with me forever!

Multiplexes just aren't the same. I personally think the new Cineworld in Cheltenham is terrible. The seats are uncomfortable, the actual auditoriums are small and I don't know if it's just me...but they just stink of vomit?!!

Here in Toruń, we had a brand new Cinema City multiplex open up (which is far better than Cineworld). At the time of opening we had 3 smaller cinemas in the old town. Well 2 years pleased to say that 2 of the old cinemas are STILL up and running!!! They have survived by playing a stream of arthouse and more independent movies.

Sorry for not visiting your site for such a long time but here at TORUŃ DP we have been very busy! Doesn't mean we have forgotten about your site though!

Lori said...

It's sad when the grand old movie theaters close. I hope they can get something new going on the site soon. At least you have nice memories from it!

pusa said...

am not from UK but we also have a cinema named Odeon which was demolished and replaced by another mall!!! sad to see a building with history being torn down in exchange for modernization.

ps i still cry over et too! :)

Anonymous said...

The same thing has happened in San Francisco. They keep closing the old neighborhood theatres and we're forced to go to soulless multiplexes.

Christopher Bowles said...

Hi there,
I read your piece with interest as I too saw E.T. there in 82 as well as others over the years. I have happy memories of that cinema, how sad it's in its current state.

Helen Johnson said...

Sadly the beautiful facade of this exquisite building, is now in a very poor condition. It really is a travesty.

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