New Malden, KT3 4LP
Date opened: Monday 7th November 1938.
Date Closed: Saturday 2nd January 1960.
Architect: George Coles, FRIBA (1884–1963).
First film shown: “Gold Is Where You Find It”starring George Brent.
Final film shown: “The Five Pennies” starring Danny Kaye.
Seating Capacity: 961 stalls & 650 balcony = 1611.
One of the most successful and talented UK architects of the super cinema era was George Coles, who designed some of the most distinctive picture houses. Heavily influenced by the German Expressionists, his style can be identified by his enthusiasm to experiment with different styles under the umbrella of Art Deco. Odeon Theatres took full advantage of this talented man, commissioning him to design a cinema in his trademark modernistic style that was to be positioned on the Kingston By Pass at Shannon Corner.
Although out of town, it was an ideal location for the motorist. Coles had previously designed Odeons for the rapidly expanding Oscar Deutsch cinema circuit, however, with the slow down of such expansion in 1938, this was to be his final complete cinema for the company.
The striking wafer thin tower, topped with Odeon signs on both sides and edged in neon tubes that protruded out from the wide expanse of flat faience tiling. On the left of this fin tower the tall facade rounded to the edge and was topped by a glazed corridor, whilst the flat box faience to the right, featuring a dominant Odeon sign and window frames were typical of a George Coles creative design. Triple borders of colour gave relief to the cream tiles, terminating in black faience tiles at pavement level.
Six sets of double entrance doors were set below a long slender canopy leading customers into a medium sized, but well appointed entrance lobby. The auditorium had a respectable capacity of 1611 seats. The stalls accommodated 961 patrons and the balcony provided a further 650 seats.
Featured in the main ceiling was a broad band containing three rectangular apertures of linear laylights that swept centrally in three waves towards the proscenium, contrasting with the side wall light fittings that were placed near to the ceiling and three circular ceiling light fittings situated near to the stage, illuminating the front stalls area. The front of the balcony was angled back. On the under balcony ceiling, three large circular fittings provided house-lighting to the rear stalls area. The splay walls either sides of the proscenium featured bold arrangements of decorative grill work positioned in vertical and horizontal blocks that also concealed ventilation ducts.
George Cole achieved a cinema that was considered to be both sleek and modern by appreciative customers when they attended the Gala Opening on Monday 7th November 1938 to see the first film shown, a Warner Brothers feature starring Olivia de Havilland and George Brent in “Gold Is Where You Find It”.
In WW2, its faience tiled facade was camouflaged as it was an easily identifiable enemy target from the air. For locals the Odeon was a firm favourite. As with most suburban cinemas of that time it enjoyed buoyant business during the big screen’s heyday of the 1940s, but then started to suffer from lack of customers in the late 1950s.
It had many loyal patrons, including Peter Lawley who stated “The Shannon Corner Odeon was the most beautiful of all buildings which featured in my childhood. I went there frequently to the Saturday morning children’s shows, as well as to features, including ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Reach for the Sky’. It closed when I was eleven years old. I shall always regret its passing”.
The Odeon had a relatively short life of just over 20 years. It closed on Saturday 2nd January 1960 and was then used by the Decca company until 1979. It was demolished in 1985 and a car park took its place. The Shannon Corner Retail Park now approximately marks the site.