The Odeon Cinema

In 1996, the Stephen Joseph Theatre opened in a major conversion of Scarborough's former Odeon cinema. As part of the conversion agreement, Scarborough Theatre Trust agreed to restore the theatre's front-of-house areas to resemble the design of the original Odeon and the facade of the building was to be restored. As a result of this - and essentially the combination of two of Scarborough's iconic venues, it is pertinent to consider the history of the Odeon building when looking at the history of the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

The Odeon, Scarborough, opened in 1936 and was designed by J. Cecil Clavering and Robert Bullivant with Harry Weedon as the architect. Built in the Art Deco style, it featured interior design by Mollo and Egan who broke with the Odeon’s tradition of simple decoration. The opulent decoration of the building was meant to represent lush tropical vegetation and gave the interior of the building an exotic and fresh visual appeal.

The building was unusually placed for an Odeon cinema; rather than being built in the town centre or the sea-front, it was built opposite the railway station. It was reasoned the Odeon would be the first thing the majority of Scarborough holiday-makers would see when they arrived in town. Additional to this, the cinema boasted a large cafe with a panoramic view of the town centre, which apparently added £3,200 to the building costs. The final cost of the cinema was £38,700 and it was built by the company Jonathan Partington Ltd, of Manchester.

The single screen cinema seated 1,711 people - 946 in the stalls and 765 in the balcony - and was opened on 28 March 1936 by Sir Kenelm Cayley. It is frequently mistakenly said the Scarborough-born actor Charles Laughton - the first British person to win an Oscar for Best Actor with
The Private Life Of Henry VIII - opened the venue, but this was not the case. Laughton, who was born in the town and still had family there, was visiting Scarborough at the time and last-minute arrangements were made for him to appear at the opening night; the souvenir programmes feature a sticker in the programme of events centre-spread proclaiming a 'special appearance by Charles Laughton' (click here to see the programme pages). The Harry Peel Premiers provided music for the event before the presentation of the film The Ghost Goes West, starring Robert Donat and directed by Rene Clair; coincidentally one of Alan Ayckbourn’s favourite directors. The Odeon's first manager was Mr Edward G Rhodes

The Odeon closed on 21 October, 1988, with the movie
Buster, starring Phil Collins. Aside from the Odeon, Leicester Square, it was the last single screen Odeon left in the country.

The Odeon cinemas (or the Deutsch - Odeon Chain of Modern Super Cinemas as they were officially known at the time) was created and run by Oscar Deutsch. Odeon was an acronym for Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation and arguably became the most famous cinema chain in the UK in its heyday. The Odeon organisation was founded in 1933 and the first Odeon was built in Birmingham. There followed an almost unimaginable building schedule with an average of 50 Odeons a year being built in the first four years alone; all distinctive buildings which carried a familiar art deco influenced architectural style from building to building.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.