Friday, 18 September 2015

The Odeon - York's Art Deco Cinema


Earlier this week I had to visit York for work purposes. Staying close to the centre, I was thrilled to find what is perhaps the city's best example of art deco on Blossom Road, just a short step from my hotel. The Odeon Cinema was built in 1937 as part of the Oscar Deutsch owned chain of the same name.

Not only did architects Harry Weedon and Robert Bullivant have to tone down the usual Odeon house style to comply with the city's strict planning requirements, they also had to build the cinema outside of the city walls for the same reason. Despite this, they produced a large, striking building with a brick facade - unlike the faience clad cinemas found elsewhere in the chain, including at nearby Harrogate. Weedon and Bullivant also designed the Odeon Cinema at Chester.

The main architectural drama is provided by a tower with brick fins extending to the summit and flanked by horizontal bands of bricks at the upper level. There are also interesting features on the western and eastern sides of the cinema. The western flank has a two-storey block which culminates in a delicious curve, bringing to mind some of Haifa's Bauhaus buildings. This side has shops at the lower level - a barber's, a cafe, a taxi rank and a branch of the ubiquitous fast food chain Subway. Unfortunately Blossom Road is just a little bit too far from the main centre to attract any of the more interesting little shops found on Mickelgate and its neighbouring streets. Meanwhile, the eastern wing has a protuberance ending with a smaller version of the curved structure on the other side. The brickwork is rich in detail with vertical zig-zagging arrangements and slightly different colour tones.




The interior was designed as a single auditorium with stalls and balcony but was re-shaped in 1972 when a floor was installed to separate the balcony and stalls as part of a project to create three screens. The first film shown at the Odeon was The Man Who Could Work Miracles, with Accused following  in the second week of business. Like many provincial cinemas, it flourished in the 1940's, 50's and 60's before coming on hard times and eventually closing in August 2006. the following year, the building was acquired by Kailish Suri, owner of the Reel cinema chain who restored and re-opened it in 2009, re-branded as a Reel cinema but still carrying the Odeon name on the facade. Over 13,000 people had signed a petition against its closure in 2006 and the city's Member of Parliament urged them to use it once it re-opened. I noticed that Legend is currently showing so at least some of them must have heeded his call. The cinema was granted grade II listed status in 1981.  





1 comment:

  1. In our lectures this semester on Art Deco, I included The Odeon. But now I am particularly interested in Oscar Deutsch. What an achievement! Virtually in one decade, the 1930s, Deutsch and his Odeon cinemas opened up everywhere and made the cinema-going experience a pleasure..

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