Paramount (Odeon) Cinema, Tottenham Court Road, London.

Paramount (Odeon) Tottenham Court Road

156 Tottenham Court Road,

London, W1T 7NG


Original Owner:  Paramount Theatres (London) Ltd,

Architects:  Frank Verity and Sam Beverly.

Original Seating Capacity:  Stalls~1676. Balcony~892. Total: 2568.

Date opened:  Monday 10th February 1936.

First films shown: “Millions in the Air” starring John Howard and “The Return of Peter Grimm” starring Lionel Barrymore.

Compton 4 Manual/12 Ranks theatre organ opened on the same date by: Reginald Foort.

Date Closed:  Saturday 5th March 1960.

Final film shown:  “The Story On Page One” starring Rita Hayworth.


Present site status :  Absorbed into the University College Hospital Grafton Way Building.



Built on a site that had previously been occupied by a large James Shoolbred & Co department store on a corner of Tottenham Court Road and Grafton Way. On the cusp of London’s West End, it would be the third and largest cinema in the area to be operated by the Paramount Pictures Corporation of America. The previous two were the Plaza and Carlton Theatres.  Despite being a massive structure it took just over nine months to construct.  This latest addition to Paramount’s portfolio would be given the companies name.

The architects were Frank Verity and Sam Beverly who had a proven track record of designing large luxurious cinemas for the company in major cities within the British Isles, tweaking the drawing of each one to create a unique cinema/theatre.  However, there was a striking similarity to the façade and interiors of the Paramount Glasgow and this latest venture.  The steel framed main building would be in red brick. The towering main entrance façade would be in white granite that followed the curvature of the corner line. Neon tubing not only outlined the edging of the building and façade, but was also used to give maximum impact to the lettering itself on giant wall side panels that advertised the programme.

The Paramount sign was placed on a parapet above six fluted pilasters that were faced in blue faience, framing the two storey windows, marking the glitzy main entrance.  A large canopy with a deep bevelled under edge and laced with copious amounts of neon tubing gave patrons waiting in the queues plenty of protection from the weather. Under the canopy the walls were clad in light polished marble slabs that also continued at the same height along the lower section of the side elevation. Slender black marble trim was used to add detailed contrast. On the approach to the corner entrance a double stainless steel pay box with green glass panels was placed centrally outside, flanked on either side by three sets of double doors.  Having the pay box outside was an American idea and used initially at most of the UK’s Paramounts.

Beyond the entrance lobby was the main foyer that was two storeys high with a double width staircase with an impressive feature balustrade that led up to the circle lounge.

The opulent decor and furnishings in the lofty 130 seat restaurant/café complemented the reception foyers.  The richly decorated plasterwork in tones of green, copper and silver continued throughout all areas. The large fan shaped auditorium that was considered to be acoustically excellent.

The splay walls with embossed grill work panels immediately drew attention to the wide and ornate proscenium that bordered the full working stage that was more than 55’ in width and 25’ deep.  There were twelve dressing rooms.

The stalls held 1676 seats, a further 892 patrons could be accommodated in the circle, giving a total capacity of 2568 seats.

The Super-Simplex projectors, spotlights, and slide lantern were supplied and installed in the projection department at the Paramount Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, London.

The spectacular opening programme on Monday 10th February 1936 listed organist Reginald Foort at the console of the Compton 4 Manual/12 Ranks theatre organ. A stage revue arranged by Arthur Penley which he named “Dazzle” delighted the capacity audience. Artists appearing on stage included Maurice Chevalier, Anna Neagel, Herbert Wilcox, Tulio Carmianti, Helen Vinson, Henry Hall and his orchestra.  Special film had been put together with movie stars Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert & Mary Ellis “welcoming everyone to this new theatre”.

The opening features shown were “Millions in the Air” starring John Howard and Wendy Barrie.“The Return of Peter Grimm” starring Lionel Barrymore was also screened.

The cinema soon came under the control of Odeon Theatres Ltd following a deal between the two companies. It was eventually re-named Odeon in November 1946.

Often stage shows would be put on to supplement the cinema business. These shows continued through the theatres short history.

The Paramount Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, in its wartime heyday.

Organist, Robin Richmond.

Rejected by the military during World War II for health reasons, Robin Richmond spent the duration as resident organist at the Paramount Cinema in Tottenham Court Road, London, and on BBC radio. Post-war, Richmond regularly performed on the BBC Light Programme, on shows such as Music While You Work and Variety Bandbox. He also presented a number of programmes including Housewives’ Choice and Jazz Club. On television, he was the resident organist on the quiz show Double Your Money.

The famous theatre and radio organist, Robin Richmond, seated at the Compton console of the Paramount cinema. Photographed on 25th March 1943.

Although enjoying the brisk business during the heyday of 1940s cinema, the venue was at a disadvantage because of its high operational costs associated with a very large building and not being entirely in the catchment area of the West End itself.  However, it was ideal for the Twentieth Century Fox UK trade exhibition of their fledgling CinemaScope system that took place in June 1953.

Click on the above frame to see the Odeon Tottenham Court Road. CinemaScope demo.

The wide proscenium accommodated with ease the giant 53’x21’ letter box shape screen that would impress the important decision makers who ran the cinema industry within the British Isles to invest into this latest, non-gimmick technology that would meet the challenge of the on-going threat of competition to their businesses.

The Odeon Tottenham Court Road was also used to trial the more ambitious and dubious Cinemiracle system that was hoped to be a rival for Cinerama. This meant a reduction of 700 seats so that the huge frame that would accommodate the 71’x28’ screen could be erected. After closure for the installation of the new equipment and screen frame the cinema re-opened on 14th May 1958.

James Jee and his fiance, Dorn, were in the audience at the Odeon. James was a projectionist at the Odeon East Ham and he recalls his experience of seeing Cinemiracle at Tottenham Court Road-

“In early 1958 our 2nd operator Tony Phillips was asked if he wanted to be included in the projection team presenting the new show in London. Tony was delighted and accepted the offer. Later that year Tony gave me two tickets to see the film “WINDJAMMER” which was the only film to be shown in CINEMIRACLE at the Odeon Tottenham Court Road.  I took Dorn who was an usherette at the Odeon East Ham where we both worked. We had just started courting at this time. Would you believe they had a band playing music before the film started!  We both enjoyed the programme, and remembered the sound as being really impressive. Dorn later became my wife”.

The run of Cinemiracle finished on 1st November 1958. After this relatively short run of Cinemiracle the building was returned to normal cinema exhibition. Few realised at this time that the Odeon, Tottenham Court Road would close within 17 months.


Twenty four years from the year it opened the cinema closed on Saturday 5th March 1960 showing its final feature, “The Story on Page One” starring Rita Hayworth. Demolition started quickly and the site was cleared and used as a “temporary” car park. The remnants of the lower walls of the cinema formed a course boundary on parts of the car park. For decades the site remained vacant, perhaps ear marked for an important future development? Eventually it became clear that the site was to be embraced into a massive project known as the University College Hospital Grafton Way Building, which was opened by HRH Prince Charles on 2nd March 2022.

Brave New Wards. The Grafton Way building on the former Rosenheim Building and Paramount/Odeon theatre site with the existing University College Hospital building reflected in the glazing.

This splendid building has a corner entrance that seems to acknowledge the facade of the Paramount Theatre. Amazingly it boasts a basement that could easily fit the entire Albert Hall within.




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

Paramount, Manchester.

Paramount, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Paramount, Liverpool.

Paramount Glasgow.

Paramount, Leeds.

Paramount, Birmingham.