Burnley, BB11 2DL
Owners: Odeon Theatres Ltd/ Oscar Deutsch.
Architects: Robert Bullivant, Harry Weedon practice.
Building Cost: £42,517.
First General Manager: Clifford Brown.
Seating Capacity: 2136.
Date Opened: Saturday 28th August 1937.
First Film Shown: “’The Plainsman’” starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur.
Date Closed: Saturday 17th November 1973.
Final Film Shown: “The Language of Love”.
In the 1930s Odeon was unstoppable in their aim to provide cinema entertainment to the masses. Another place to be given the Odeon treatment was the town of Burnley.
The new Odeon was opened on the 28th August 1937 on the corner of Gunsmith Lane (Church Street) and Yorkshire Street. There wasn’t as big a splash as many other new Odeons had, but many prominent local citizens attended. Also in attendance was Harry Weedon of the Harry Weedon practice.
A member of the borough a Mr Wilfrid Burke declared the building open and there was a fanfare sounded by members of the First Battalion of the Royal Scots Guards. The building cost around £42.517 and was designed by Robert Bullivant from the Harry Weedon practice. Seating was for 1,404 in the stalls area and 732 in the circle.
There was spacious luxurious lounge foyer decorated in green and gold. The paybox was situated in the centre of the foyer, which was the case in many Odeons.
The auditorium was also in green and gold and houselighting was concealed.
Up in the operating box the usual BTH equipment was in use, installed in all Odeons. The opening feature To run through the projectors was ‘The Plainsman’. There was also a large car park for patrons.
A Mr Clifford Brown was the first manger. He is quoted as saying at the opening, “The sixpenny patron is just as important to us as the one who pays the highest price, and our staffs are trained to be ready at the service of everyone who enters our theatre.”
A new manager at the theatre in 1943 was a Mr Leslie Lancaster. The first thing he did as far as showmanship was concerned was to display a bold announcement of his two features ‘Wings for Victory’ and ‘Road to Morocco’ on bannerettes with the RAF emblem superimposed on a large V and fastened to his festooned backcloth. Also in 1943 a former projectionist at the theatre, a Mr John Wilkinson, RN was awarded the B.E.N for bomb disposal work.
To try and keep The cinema afloat Rank tried a number of things. Bingo was given a shot from the 1st October 1961 but didn’t gain popularity there. Other ideas included ballet, opera, brass band concerts and Shakespeare.
An announcement in the Burnley Express dated 3 April 1973 that Burnley’s Odeon Cinema, no longer an economic proposition in the days of dwindling cinema audiences, is to be demolished – if planning permission is granted, to make way for a seven-storey office block. The report quotes the Rank’s spokesman as saying that the company had no plans to retain cinema facilities in the town. People are not going to the cinema as they used to. He continued that the tendency today is towards smaller studio-type cinemas – for which Burnley is already provided in its central area redevelopment. Larger cinemas such as the Odeon are not economically viable.”
The final film to be projected was ‘The Language of Love’. The theatre closed on Saturday 17th November 1973. It was demolished and the site remained empty until 1983 when a Sainsbury’s was built.
David A Ellischestercinemas.co.uk