Odeon/Plaza Cinema, Western-super-Mare.

Odeon/Plaza Cinema, Weston-super-Mare.

18 Walliscote Road,

Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1AA


Original owner:  Oscar Deutsch, Odeon Theatres (Western-super-Mare) Ltd,

Architect:  Thomas Cecil Howitt (1889–1968).

Principal building contractor:  C. Bryant & Son Ltd of Birmingham.

Date opened:  Saturday 25th May 1935

First film shown:  “Brewster’s Millions” starring Jack Buchanan, Lili Damita and Nancy O’Neil.

Seating capacity:  Stalls~1174,  Circle~ 633. Total capacity of 1807.

Compton organ (original):  3-manuals, 6-ranks John Compton pipe organ, which included a Solo Cello. Opened by organist~ Alfred Richards.

First resident organist (1935/36): Alfred Richards.

Date opened as a three screen Film Centre:  23rd December 1973.

Date closed as an Odeon Cinema:  Monday 5th June 2023.

Building purchased by Merlin Cinemas:  July 2023.

Re-opened as the Plaza Cinema:  Friday 15th December 2023.

Primary opening movie- Screen 1:  ‘Wonka’, starring Timothée Chalamet and Gustave Die. 



Although founded in 1930, the first five Odeons of this fledgling circuit opened in 1933, followed by another seventeen in 1934. Odeon Theatres Ltd were now opening their purpose-built cinemas at a breath-taking pace. Led by the dynamic businessman, Oscar Deutsch, who ensured that this prominent corner site, which had previously been occupied by the Electric Premier Cinema, would be secured for his Western Super Mare Odeon.

Thomas Cecil Howitt

A Nottingham based architect, Thomas Cecil Howitt (1889–1968), was commissioned by the company to prepare plans for a well-designed and streamlined ‘Super Cinema’. Odeon Theatres were already established as style leaders in Moderne cinema design. It was to be the first of four similarly designed Odeons by T. Cecil Howitt. Construction took place during 1934/35. The main building contractors were C. Bryant & Son Ltd of Birmingham.
At Western Super Mare there is a square tower with a projecting slab roof supported by twelve squat pillars positioned to the right of the main entrance. To the left of the tower is a projected block that has a huge recessed double height window frame.

Two three storey high wings fronted the sides of the main auditorium block. The Regent Street elevation comprising of three bays with Crittall-style metal framed windows, while the Walliscote Road had five bays, thus producing extra revenue from shops at street level and offices above. The tower and street facades are faced in paired buff and cream faience tiles set in a basket-weave pattern, with horizontal bands incorporating green tiles to the parapets and the sides of the windows, with black glass Vitrolite panels on the lower reaches of the wings.

At night neon lighting placed in line with the green faience, around the ‘Odeon’ and along the edge of the canopies provided an Art Deco attractive theme to the exterior of the cinema.

A deep central convex canopy projected over a set of four curved steps leading to a cluster of five double entrance doors. Originally supplemented by canopy extensions along Regent Street and Walliscote Road, which were removed in later years.

Entrance vestibule stairs leading to the stalls lounge.

Stalls foyer and circle staircase.

Circle Lounge.

The well-appointed vestibules and reception foyers gave customers a taste of what they would meet when entering the auditorium. Accommodating 1174 customers in the stalls with a further 633 in the circle, a total capacity of 1807 seats was achieved in this sleek and modern Art Deco cinema. Inside the auditorium with its straight, crisp cut lines, devoid of fancy grille work, being deliberately minimalist.

Oscar Deutsch preferred simplistic interiors, based on an interplay of plain mouldings and extensive use of concealed coved lighting, allowing luxurious seating, carpets and first rate films to share a major portion of the theatre’s budget.

Lighting was concealed in troughs that ran across the ceiling and in three back-lit recesses that bordered the proscenium opening. Further concealed subtle lighting came from recessed rectangular ceiling features.
Theatre organs were not usually within the plans of an Odeon Theatre. However, Oscar Deutsch wisely chose to include a 3-manuals, 6-ranks John Compton pipe organ, which included a Solo Cello. The illuminated organ’s console case was in a cascade design that rose centrally on a lift from the orchestra pit. The two organ chambers, containing 600 tightly packed organ pipes were placed above the proscenium, with the sound reaching the audience via decorative plaster coves. Only nine theatre organs were originally installed across the Odeon circuit.

The opening of the Odeon Cinema, Western-super-Mare. Oscar Deutsch is seated, first left.

The Gala Opening took place on Saturday 25th May 1935 with the Company Chairman, Oscar Deutsch, and his wife, Lillian, in attendance.

A souvenir programme describes the Odeon Weston Super Mare as ‘modernity at its best’, with seating accommodation that was ‘luxurious and spaced to give ample room for true comfort’.

Alfred Richards played the Compton at the Gala Opening and then became the resident organist at Weston-Super-Mare’s Odeon from 1935 to 1937.

Charles Randolph followed Alfred Richards as resident organist at the Odeon, Western-super-Mare.

The capacity audience were treated to the first melodic tunes played on the Compton by the renowned organist, Alfred Richards, that included ‘Around the corner at the Odeon’ which he composed specially for the occasion.

Then the first feature film on the big screen was the British musical comedy “Brewster’s Millions” starring Jack Buchanan, Lili Damita and Nancy O’Neil.
After he opened the cinema’s Compton on the Gala Evening, Alfred Richards became the resident organist during 1935/36.

The projection room.

Locals and holiday makers flocked to the building during the heyday of cinema.

In July 1963, just weeks before they went global, The Beatles performed six concerts at the Odeon Cinema in Weston-super-Mare and stayed at the Royal Pier Hotel.

25th August, 1964.

The business was supplemented with stage shows, particularly during the 1960s ‘pop concert’ era. From The Beatles to The Rolling Stones, numerous stars and groups performed live on stage.

The building was turned into a three-screen venue by creating two small cinemas in the rear stalls area.

As a multi screen venue.

The circle became the largest cinema. The new operation opened on 23rd December 1973. Later, a fourth cinema was created in the front stalls area and opened in June 1991.

Only two known working UK cinema organs remain at their original site. The other is at the Odeon Leicester Square.

Remarkably, through all the alterations that took place, the Compton organ survived and was played frequently~ (restored in about 1999).
Grade II listing was given on 21st August 1986.

Michael Woolridge became the final organist to play the Compton at a special concert.

Organist, Michael Woolridge, played the Compton on Sunday 21st May 2023 for what was to be its final concert before the Odeon closed its doors for good on Monday 5th June 2023. It hasn’t been said what will happen to the building or the Compton organ that has been a fixture since the 1930’s. The building was one of only two remaining commercially operated cinemas in the country with an original working Compton organ, the final being the Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square, London.

However, the building was quickly purchased by Merlin Cinemas the following month (July). It reopened on Friday 15th December 2023, rebranded as the Plaza cinema.

The re-branded Plaza cinema, Weston-super-Mare.

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Check out another T. Cecil Howitt Odeon by clicking on the frame below~