Weston-Super-Mare Odeon Cinema

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1311970
Date first listed:
21-Aug-1986
Date of most recent amendment:
23-Feb-2018
Statutory Address:
Walliscote Road, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UR

Map

Ordnance survey map of Weston-Super-Mare Odeon Cinema
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Location

Statutory Address:
Walliscote Road, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1UR

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District:
North Somerset (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Weston-Super-Mare
National Grid Reference:
ST3214261317

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.

Reasons for Designation

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.

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.

Details

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.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
33265
Legacy System:
LBS

Sources

Books and journals
Souvenir Programme, Odeon Weston-super-Mare, (May 1935)
Websites
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Deutsch, Oscar, accessed 24 July 2017 from http://www.oxforddnb.com
Other
Various plans of Odeon Cinema, Weston-super-Mare dated 1934. Somerset Heritage Centre.

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 22 Aug 1999
Reference: IOE01/00042/22
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Robert Mair. Source Historic England Archive
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