Odeon Cinema, Blackpool.

Odeon Cinema (original), Blackpool.

5 Dickson Road,

Blackpool, FY1 2AX

 

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 Harry Weedon assistants, W. Calder Robson, and Arthur J. Price.  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 faience tile clad façade with a prominent tower to the right featured a large central stepped rectangular recess of bands of convex tiles that contained five tall windows with a well set out large Odeon sign mounted above the windows that complemented the signs placed within the top of the tower apertures.  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 shallow but wide entrance lobby with the pay desk facing the entrance doors.

A generous canopy spanned the entire width of the frontage and continued along the side of the building in Springfield Road giving plenty of shelter from the rain for the holiday makers. 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 main entrance lobby had a low ceiling and was shallow but very wide with a cash desk that faced customers immediately they entered. The crowds could be quickly moved towards the sides, left and right, that had wide entrances that led them quickly to the stalls and balcony staircases.

The auditorium photographed from the stage.

 

 

The Odeon opened on 6th May 1939 with “Three Smart Girls Grow Up” starring Deanna Durbin. The main facade and entrance is on Dickson Road but a second entrance for front stalls patrons was provided on Springfield Road. Provision was also made for an organ but this was not installed until 1946, when a Conacher 4Manual/12Ranks with grand piano was installed and opened by Al Bollington. The instrument had been transferred from the Ritz Cinema, Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

Mollo & Egan plasterwork on the splay walls.

The Odeon was triplexed in 1975 with the two smaller screens 2 and 3 contained completely within the the under-balcony area of the rear stalls. This meant that from the balcony located screen 1 there was no visible change to the auditorium. Even the wonderful Art Deco style lights remained in full working order until the day of closure. The spacious cafe at first floor level was converted into an equally spacious bar.

Even towards the end of its cinema life it was possible to fill the 1,300 seat (former circle) screen 1 (“Titanic” had especially large queues forming and extra performances added).

Odeon built a new multiplex on on Rigby Road, opposite the tram depot in the south of the town centre, and this original Odeon building was closed on 5th December 1998 with “Babe, Pig in the City”, “Ronan”, “Blade” & “Mulan”. It was neglected and left in a rather poor state of disrepair.

It was boarded up for several years until it was acquired by Basil Newby who’s Pink Leisure Company converted the former circle into a gay nightclub;Flamingo’s, a gay bar in the former circle foyer and Funny Girls; a drag-cabaret theatre in the former stalls area which opened in 2002. In August 2018 Basil Newby’s Pink Leisure Company was put into receivership and the business was temporary taken over by Thwaites Brewery. Thwaites took over the ownership of the building in January 2019 and renovations are being carried out while all its facilities remain open. New signage in the style of the original 1930’s ‘Odeon’ signage is to be installed on the building.

This cinema was modernised in 1964-1965 and was designated Grade II listed status in 1994. It closed as a cinema in 1998 and after a period of disuse became an entertainment venue.

The Odeon is a Grade II Listed building.

Odeon cinema. 1938-9 by Robert Bullivant of the firm Harry Weedon and Partners. Steel frame clad in brick, with white and green faience to front and black faience to lower part of left side elevation. Roof not seen. Rectangular double-height plan with corner tower. Auditorium originally for 1,800 seats in stalls and single circle, with foyers on both levels; subdivided in 1975 to form two 200-seat mini-cinemas and projection box under circle. The main auditorium comprises the original circle, front stalls, proscenium, stage and surrounds. Main facade a series of planes etched with narrow bands, centred on five lancets with metal casements under ODEON sign. Cornice band striped in green faience. Square corner tower set back to right side, also faience-clad, fluted at top under ODEON signs to each face. Original canopy over ground floor. Side elevation of banded brick and tile, stepped down to rear. Ground floor clad in black faience under original queue canopy running the full length of the facade and now a rare feature on a cinema. Auditorium has stage but no fly tower. Proscenium with fluted, streamlined surround, flanked by decorative screens masking ventilation chambers. Ceiling with moulded cyma decoration ascends in six steps from the anteproscenium screen, incorporating two bands of decorative vents and service ducts to pairs of pendant lights. Rear projection box now disused. Original pendant wall-lights, six to either side. Dado panelling and veneered barriers, moulded circle front. Original doors with tiny viewing panes under chrome bars. The front of the stalls with original exit doors but now unseated. Circle foyer retains some original seating but has been repanelled and converted to a bar. Included as a remarkably complete surviving Odeon cinema, with many original features now rare elsewhere.