Odeon Cinema, Blackpool.

Odeon Cinema (original), Blackpool.

5 Dickson Road,

Blackpool, FY1 2AX

 

Owners: Odeon Theatres (Blackpool) Ltd/ Oscar Deutsch.

Architects:  William Calder Robson, Robert Bullivant, Harry Weedon Partnership.

Construction Cost:  £82500.

Seating Capacity:  3088.

Date Opened: Saturday 6th May 1939.

Opened By:  Alderman W.R. Duckworth MP.

First Film Shown:  “Three Smart Girls Grow Up” starring Deanna Durbin & Charles Winninger. 

Cosmetic modernisation:  December 1964 to February 1965.

Opened as a 3 Screen Film Centre:  16th October 1975.

Grade II listing established:  Spring of 1994.

Date Closed:  Saturday  5th December 1998

Final Films Shown: “Babe, Pig in the City”, “Ronan”, “Blade” & “Mulan”.

Building Extant:  Present use~ Funny Girls Nightclub and bar.

 

 

This was the only large  cinema to be built in the centre of Blackpool during the 1930s. David Rosenfield, a local company director introduced the site that was set on the corner of Dickson Road and Springfield Road. The design of this mammoth building was placed in the hands of William Calder Robson, with assistance of Robert Bullivant, architects in the Harry Weedon Partnership. It was to be the largest of all Odeons that were purpose built specifically for the Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres circuit. The stalls seated 1684 patrons, with a further 1404 in the balcony, giving a total capacity of 3088.

The dominating sheer main facade, clad with white faience tiles featured a prominent tower to the right. The frontage consisted of a series of planes etched with narrow bands of convex tiles centring around five narrow lofty windows within metal casements over which was fixed a large ODEON neon sign. Three broad green horizontal bands ran parallel to the parapet and were picked out with neon tubing together with the other lines of the building. The white faience tiles to front contrasted with black faience tiles to the lower reaches and continuing around the left side elevation, topped by banded brickwork. 

A generous canopy spanned the entire width of the facade and continued along the side of the building in Springfield Road giving plenty of shelter from the rain for the holiday-makers. The main entrance was on Dickson Road with a second entrance for front stalls business located on Springfield Road. It was necessary to step up the brickwork along the side elevation towards the front so as to hide the pitched roof of the auditorium.

The shallow but wide entrance lobby with the pay desk facing the entrance doors.

The main entrance lobby had a low ceiling and was shallow but very wide with a cash desk that faced customers immediately they entered. Once their tickets were purchased, patrons  could be quickly moved towards the sides, left and right, through wide entrances that led them quickly to the stalls and balcony staircases.

The auditorium photographed from the stage.

The auditorium was typical of the noted cinema architect Robert Bullivant’s sleek and modernistic design. The moulded cyma decoration of the vast main ceiling, arranged in a series of six steps that lowered towards the proscenium that incorporated two bands of of decorative grill work disguising the ventilation ducting apertures. The proscenium had streamlined splay walls consisting of three vertically fluted bays on each side flanked by features of ornate flowery plaster grillwork, again concealing ventilation inputs designed by Mollo & Egan. Large pendant houselight fittings hung from the main ceiling and were complemented by matching pendant wall-lights, six on either side of the circle area.

Dado panelling and veneered barriers were a feature on both stalls and circle levels. The large capacity of the circle meant that front side exits were required. A moulded front to the circle added to the modern lines of the auditorium. The stage was of generous proportions, but lacked a fly tower.

The former Ritz Southend Conacher Theatre Organ after its move to the Odeon Theatre Blackpool during 1946.

Provision was also made for an organ, unusual for an Odeon Theatre as Oscar Deutsch considered theatre organs to be an unnecessary luxury and believed that they detracted from the main business of a cinema, i.e. showing films.

Al Bollington

However, a Conacher 4Manual/12Ranks with grand piano was installed several years later, and after the war during 1946 and was opened by Al Bollington. The organ was second-hand having been acquired from the Ritz Cinema, Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

The Grand Gala Opening took place on Saturday 6th May 1939. Thousands flocked to this important event and were delighted to see film stars such as Conrad Veidt and George Formby attend in person.

The lucky Gala ticket holders witnessed Odeon’s founder, Oscar Deutsch, invite the Mayor of Blackpool, Alderman W.R. Duckworth MP, to officially open the building before a capacity audience. The first movie shown was “Three Smart Girls Grow Up” starring Deanna Durbin and Charles Winninger.

A dapper Oscar Deutsch on the opening night.

This cinema was to be one of the final Odeons designed and built under the control of its founder, Oscar Deutsch. At only 45, his health was a matter of concern (he passed away in 1941). However, the main reason for the cinema building expansion work to come to an abrupt stop was World War II which broke out five months later.

The large cinema had copious competition as would be expected in a major resort.  It depended heavily on trade during the holiday season. If business was good it could boast large admission figures. However, when admissions started to dip the huge cinema struggled.

1967 stage show advert

Full use was made of its stage facilities which helped bolster its takings.  In the 1950s/60s it took full advantage of pop concerts.  In the period between December 1964 to February 1965 the cinema went through cosmetic modernisation alterations, closing for just four days. As it headed into the 1970s the Rank Organisation announced that the building was to become a Film Centre, housing three screens under the one roof. 1975 saw  work commence to divide the auditorium into three separate cinemas with two small screens holding 190 seats each together with a new projection room constructed under the balcony area of the rear stalls.

The original circle, now named screen 1,  was left intact and retained the original stage and screen with little visible change to the upper level of the auditorium which now  seated 1404. Even the original Art Deco style lights remained in full working order. Doors opened to the Film Centre on 16th October 1975.

It was designated Grade II listed status in the Spring of 1994. It closed as a cinema in 1998 and after a lengthy period of being unused became an entertainment venue.  

The Odeon closed as a cinema on 5th December 1998 the final films shown were “Babe, Pig in the City”, “Ronan”, “Blade” & “Mulan”.

The iconic Odeon’s present use as a nightclub~ Funny Girls.

Building Extant.  Present use~ Nightclub and bar.

 

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