Paramount (Odeon) Cinema, Leeds.

Paramount (Odeon) Leeds.

20 The Headrow,

Leeds, LS1 6PT


Original owners:  Paramount Theatres (Leeds) Ltd.  Acquired by Odeon Theatres Ltd:  25th August 1942

Architects:  Frank Thomas Verity,F.R.I.B.A. & Samuel Beverley, F.R.I.B.A.  Sir Reginald T. Blomfield, R.A. 

Site Purchase cost:  £110000.

Construction cost:  £250000.

General Contractors:  J.T. Wright & Sons, Leeds.

Seating Capacity:  1556 stalls, 1000 circle.  Total original capacity: 2556 seats.

Date Opened:  Monday 22nd February 1932.

First feature shown: “The Smiling Lieutenant “, starring Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert

Cinema Organ Installed: Wurlitzer 3 manual, 19 rank organ with divided chambers, opened by Rex O’Grady.

Date Closed:  Sunday 28th October 2001. 

Interior demolished and re-developed into housing and retail. Exterior remains.



The Paramount Film Company of America had intended to build some fifty cinemas in the UK. For a variety of reasons this ambitious target fell well short.  The handful of Paramount Theatres that did materialise on the company’s wish list, Leeds was included.

A central site for this large cinema was secured within a new development on the corner of Briggate and adhering to the new Headrow building line. This UK Paramount Theatre was the ultimate addition to the rapidly expanding purpose built cinemas in Leeds. The site cost was in the region of £110000 with a further expenditure of £250000 for the construction. Its magnificent and ornate American-style was like nothing that had gone before in the area. It was envisaged that the sheer size and opulence of the theatre would delight and overwhelm the thousands of Leeds movie goers, providing live on stage revues that complemented the primary film entertainment.

Sir Reginald Theodore Blomfield, R.A.

The Headrow re-development architect, Sir Reginald Theodore Blomfield, was responsible for the exterior design which was an integral part within his smart Headrow scheme that  included the layout of the street with shops, offices and banks.

The new building in facing brick with stone dressing and urns that were placed at intervals upon the parapet  was in contrast to the interior design that was drawn up by Paramount’s preferred architectural firm in the UK – Verity and Beverley. Frank Thomas Verity,F.R.I.B.A. in association with his partner and son-in-law, Samuel Beverley, F.R.I.B.A., managed to achieve an individuality which did not follow any given style. Their breath-taking design for the Leeds project was predominantly for the comfort and enjoyment of the patron.

The Entrance Lobby.

Customers entered the lobby foyer, catching their first glimpse of the ornate plasterwork decorated in fabulous tones of green, blue, red, silver and gold. The company’s determination was to set a standard in entertainment with opulent surroundings that was to be unsurpassable.

The luxurious main entrance foyer was dominated by a beautiful chandelier hung centrally to it’s curved lines. Tastefully decorated ornate plasterwork on both ceilings and borders complemented the sweeping dual staircases that met on a bridge that led to the galleried landings with their superb ornamental balustrades punctuated with towering pilasters, then further onto the circle foyers and restaurant/café.  Soft furnishings of the highest quality were used throughout together with deep pile carpet in colourful design was fit throughout.  As patrons negotiated these foyers their anticipation increased that they were about to enter and experience somewhere very special.

The impact of the proscenium photographed from the stalls. The Wurlitzer organ can be seen on the left of stage.

Entrance to the stalls was central to these side staircases.  The auditorium seated 1556 in the stalls area with the balcony accommodating 1000 making a capacity of 2556 seats.

Despite its vastness, a welcoming effect of intimacy had been achieved by the use of a generous scale in the decorative scheme that included many ornate features associated with the American-style that included 35′ high wall panels in Moir-silk that had 18th century costumed figures etched on them.  A tranquil atmosphere prevailed in the interior due to the clever mix of subtle colour tones. Acoustic specification and excellent sightlines were given considerable attention.

The Gala Opening performance took place at 7pm on Monday 22nd February 1932. The Paramount Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vicoli accompanied the stage revue that featured 24 Mangan Tiller Girls and other artists.
An elaborate Wurlitzer 3 manual, 19 rank organ with divided chambers, which was the fourth largest in Europe had been installed at a cost of £20000. The ornate console rose on its lift from the orchestra pit and was played for the first time by Rex O’Grady.

The Paramount had a full working stage complete with fly tower. The proscenium width was 52′.
The first film, “The Smiling Lieutenant “, starring Maurice Chevalier and Claudette Colbert was shown to a capacity audience. It was intended that the Paramount would screen exclusively the first presentation of Paramount pictures in the Leeds area. Additionally, the Paramount Leeds devoted a good part of the cinema programme to stage shows.
Although the cinema enjoyed brisk business, there loomed a problem. Odeon Theatres Ltd, owned by Birmingham businessman, Oscar Deutsch, were rapidly opening smaller, more modern cinemas around the country at an alarming rate, virtually circling smaller circuits such as Paramount and aggressively taking away their patrons by offering a wider choice of quality first run feature films. He also threatened plans of building his cinemas in close proximity to established Paramount Theatres. By 1937 Deutsch had 250 Odeon cinemas. This made Odeon one of the three major circuits in the UK, prompting negotiations between the two companies for the lease or sale of Paramount’s UK portfolio across to Odeon. On November 23, 1939, Deutsch reached an agreement with Paramount’s UK boss, David. E. Rose,  to take over seven of the companies cinemas on 35-year leases. Paramount retained its London venues, the Plaza and Carlton.

Oscar Deutsch (1893 – 1941), founder of Odeon Cinemas, in his London office, 23rd November 1939. He is signing an agreement with David Rose of Paramount Theatres, to take over seven Paramount cinemas.

Just over eight years from its opening, the Paramount Leeds was re-branded as an Odeon cinema on 15th April 1940. Oscar Deutsch passed away the following year.

Pictured in 1947 as an Odeon Theatre.

Now part of the Rank Organization the Odeon Leeds flourished throughout the heyday of cinema, with modern technical additions such as CinemaScope and other formats in picture and sound making it an important cinema on the circuit.
Stage shows brought numerous international artists like Judy Garland and top recording groups like The Beach Boys and The Beatles to perform “Live On Stage” in Leeds.

On Stage- The Beatles.

With increased competition from other sources of entertainment the Odeon, in common with most UK cinemas, experienced a dramatic fall in admissions. The running expenses of large city centre cinemas drained away their profits. In September of 1968 the cinema closed as a single screen unit. Major structural work took place to divide the auditorium (twinning). During this time the organ was removed and transferred to the Thursford Organ Collection, Norfolk.

The twinned Odeon Leeds facade.

The two screen venue opened on 15th May 1969. One cinema formed on the original stalls area could accommodate 1297 patrons. The second screen at first floor level replacing the original balcony held a further 978 seats. With extra choice the business improved during the next decade, a third screen was built in the former bar (café) area, opening on 23rd July 1978, and seating 126. With business again beginning dip during the mid-1980s Rank took the decision to divide the larger ground floor screen into 3 units with seating for 441 – 200 and 174. The total capacity at this time was 1923 seats.
Although enjoying acceptable business the Odeon closed on Sunday 28th October 2001. The company relocated to a new 13 screen Odeon multiplex.

The final films shown were “Jeepers Creepers”, “American Pie 2”, “Atlantis”, “American Sweethearts”, “The Fast and the Furious”, “Cats and Dogs”.

The old Paramount/ Odeon Leeds- present day.

The building exterior was kept intact. The interior was gutted and used for housing developments with the ground floor used for retail.

The “Wonder Theatre Of The North” lives on as a Sports Direct store!




click on other Paramount theatres listed below for their histories & photographs~

Paramount Manchester.

Paramount Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Paramount Liverpool.

Paramount Glasgow.

Paramount, Tottenham Court Road, London.

Paramount Birmingham.