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Weston-Super-Mare Odeon Cinema

A Grade II Listed Building in Weston-Super-Mare, North Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.3467 / 51°20'48"N

Longitude: -2.9758 / 2°58'32"W

OS Eastings: 332133

OS Northings: 161295

OS Grid: ST321612

Mapcode National: GBR J6.VJ5L

Mapcode Global: VH7CK.CDNZ

Entry Name: Weston-Super-Mare Odeon Cinema

Listing Date: 21 August 1986

Last Amended: 23 February 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1311970

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33265

Location: Weston-Super-Mare, North Somerset, BS23

County: North Somerset

Civil Parish: Weston-super-Mare

Built-Up Area: Weston-Super-Mare

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

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Weston-super-Mare

Listing Text

The following buildings shall be added to the list;

WESTON-SUPER-MARE REGENT STREET
1.
5121
ST3261NW 11/85 Odeon Cinema

II

Cinema, now adapted to three auditoria. 1935, by T Cecil Hewitt. Reinforced
concrete structure faced with faience tile, some black opaque glass, other areas
of ground floor now painted black; slate hangings to vertical surfaces to roof
structures, roof not visible, probably asphalt. A characteristic corner position
with generous quadrant curve to fascia over main doors, and a square tower with
flat slab carried on 12 squat round columns as a vertical statement. Facades
are in paired buff tiles set in basket-weave pattern, with horizontal bands
incorporating green tiles at the parapets. All steel windows, a large vertical
unit to lesser tower adjoining main tower in quadrant, and to each of facades to
Regent Street and The Centre groups of 5 and 3 windows respectively at first and
second floors: all of these the original casements with horizontal bars. Ground
floor has series of plate glass shop fronts, with sets of paired doors around the
quadrant, and under a flat slab to the fascia, now in red plastic. At the far
right end in Regent Street some of the black facing glass ('Vitrolite') remains.
Original lettering 'Odeon' on tower. Backs relatively inaccessible with rendered
brick walling.
The Interior still retains most of the original fittings such as suspended
lighting fittings, and a large octagonal ceiling coffer to the upper foyer; doors
have vision panels with three applied horizontal bars; fluted cornices patterned
grilles over exit doors. The main front stalls and balcony of the auditorium,
with screen and proscenium all seems to be as the original design, with fluted
pilasters and faceted sides to the proscenium. One of the octagonal clocks
remains, as also the theatre organ with the raising and lowering mechanism.
Under the original balcony two small studio auditoria have been inserted, but
with minimal damage to the concealment of the designer's detail.
This is a good representative of the pre-war 'Odeon' style, with minimal
alteration within and without. It holds a vital position on a prominent corner
in the town, in a way not often achieved by corner properties.


Listing NGR: ST3213061299

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

Summary

Cinema with integrated parade of shops (shops vacant 2017). 1935 designed by by T Cecil Howitt and constructed by C Bryant & Son Ltd for the Odeon cinema chain. Converted to four screens during the late C20.

Description

Cinema with integrated parade of shops (shops vacant 2017). 1935 designed by by T Cecil Howitt and constructed by C Bryant & Son Ltd for the Odeon cinema chain. Converted to four screens during the late C20.

MATERIALS: steel-framed construction with reinforced concrete and brick; street elevations faced with cream faience with detailing in black opaque glass and green tile; other areas of the ground floor are now (2017) painted black. Slate hanging to sloping sections of roof; rest is flat, and probably asphalt covered.

PLAN: occupying a prominent corner site at the junction of Walliscote Road and Alexandra Parade. It comprises narrow, roadside ranges linked by a curved entrance canopy, with auditorium block to rear.

EXTERIOR: the building is designed in a streamlined Modern style; of three storeys with a basement to the roadside ranges. The street facades are faced in paired buff and cream tiles set in basket-weave pattern, with horizontal bands incorporating green tiles to the parapets and the sides of the windows. The steel-framed casement windows have horizontal bars. The Alexandra Parade elevation has a wide central window flanked by three-light casements to the first and ground floors; the lower right window appears to have been replaced. To Walliscote Road are three ground-floor windows with a narrower window to either side and five to the first floor, all of three lights, and a 21-light window in a recessed, chamfered surround to the corner block adjoining the tower. The ground floor elevations are faced with black Vitrolite, except for the principal entrance at the corner which is faience-clad, and have a series of plate-glass shop fronts (boarded over, 2017); one to the Alexandra Parade elevation and three to Walliscote Road. Some of the shop fronts have been replaced in the early C21. There are also paired and single doors, and to the entrance at the north-west corner are five pairs of doors with a generous curved, aluminium-clad fascia above. The square tower rises above the rest of the building and is surmounted by a flat slab with rounded corners that is supported by twelve short columns. The rear of the building is relatively inaccessible and has rendered brick walling.

INTERIOR: the ‘front of house’ encompassing the foyer/circulation is accessed from a vestibule leading to the foyer. In the current (2017) configuration the stalls level is subdivided into three screens (Screens 2, 3 and 4). Two small studio auditoria (Screens 2 and 3) have been inserted under the original balcony, but with minimal damage to the decorative scheme; and the third (Screen 4) is formed from the main stalls area. The angled side walls are stepped, with timber panelling to the lower part. There are paired timber doors on either side of the screen, recessed within deep architraves and timber surrounds. Each doorway originally had an octagonal clock, one of which remains. The clock face has the letters ‘THE ODEON’ instead of numbers to tell the time. A Compton theatre organ is situated beneath the stage (Screen 4) and has an illuminated console and a mechanism for raising and lowering. Steel columns have been added at the sides of the former stalls level to support an inserted floor for Screen 1. Lighting within the auditorium is concealed in troughs that run across the ceiling, and the proscenium opening is set within three moulded recesses which were originally back-lit.

The public areas retain a good proportion of original features and fittings, such as doors with vision panels that have applied horizontal grilles; back-lit, fluted troughs; cornices and banded, patterned plasterwork to the walls. In addition, the upper foyer is lit by a large window of horizontal panes of yellow and frosted glass, vertical strips of glazing in a chevron design, and decorative roundels of coloured glass. The pendant light fittings in both foyers and the vestibule are all probably late C20, but their Art Deco design is in keeping with the original fittings.

History

The Odeon Cinema in Weston-super-Mare was built in 1934-1935 for the Odeon cinema chain which was founded in 1930 by Oscar Deutsch. During the 1930s it was one of the country’s major circuits of cinemas, along with Gaumont and Associated British Cinemas. The first five Odeons opened in 1933, followed by another seventeen in 1934. By 1936 Deutsch's circuit comprised 142 cinemas. Odeon was a style-leader in cinema design, with extensive use of German-inspired, highly-streamlined, modernist design. Deutsch was also a pioneer in the use of architectural design and set out to create a readily-recognisable corporate image for the company’s cinemas. Although each Odeon was unique, the use of a range of architectural devices meant that most cinemas designed for the circuit were instantly recognisable as Odeons, adopting a distinctive moderne style. Internally, they also broke with earlier cinema practice by being deliberately minimalist. Deutsch consciously chose fairly simple interiors, based on an interplay of mouldings and extensive use of coved lighting, and put his money into comfortable seats and decent films.

The principal house architects for Odeon were Harry Weedon, Cecil Clavering and Robert Bullivant, however, not all of the Odeon cinemas were designed by them. Weston-super-Mare was designed by T Cecil Howitt (1889–1968). He had previously worked in Nottingham City Engineer's Department and set up on his own account in Nottingham in 1929. Howitt was responsible for designing four other Odeon cinemas: Warley, near Birmingham (1934); Clacton (1936, demolished); Bridgwater (1936); and Bristol (1938). All, including Weston-super-Mare, featured a square tower with a projecting flat slab roof supported by a squat, cylindrical column.

The Weston-super-Mare Odeon was built by C Bryant & Son Ltd of Birmingham on the site of the former Electric Premier Cinema. It opened on 25 May 1935, at which time it was described in the souvenir programme as ‘modernity at its best’, with seating accommodation that was ‘luxurious and spaced to give ample room for true comfort’. Weston-Super-Mare had seating capacity of 1807 and was equipped with a theatre organ (restored in about 1999) with illuminated console. This was manufactured by the John Compton Organ Company Ltd, the most prolific supplier of cinema and theatre organs in the country. The auditorium has been converted to four screens.

Reasons for Listing

The Odeon Cinema in Weston-super-Mare which opened in 1935 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* For its well-designed and streamlined Moderne design by architect Cecil T Howitt for the Odeon chain, style leaders in cinema design at that time;
* Effective use of faience and Vitrolite cladding to the principal elevations which also retain almost all the original windows and other design details;
* Despite the subdivision of the auditorium, elements of the original layout of the cinema survive, including the upper part of the main auditorium, proscenium arch and main staircase, enabling the original design and main circulation spaces to be read;
* For its surviving internal decorative detailing and original fittings, which include a rare working example of an original Compton organ; understood to be one of only two examples known to survive in a functioning cinema.

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