127 Dunstable Road

Overview

Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II

List Entry Number: 1356878

Date first listed: 11-Mar-1999

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Jul-2012

Statutory Address: Former Odeon Cinema, 127 Dunstable Road, Luton, Bedfordshire

Map

Ordnance survey map of 127 Dunstable Road
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Location

Statutory Address: Former Odeon Cinema, 127 Dunstable Road, Luton, Bedfordshire

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

District: Luton (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference: TL0837521733

Summary

Former Odeon cinema, designed in 1937-8 by Keith P Roberts.

Reasons for Designation

The former Odeon cinema, designed in 1937-8 by Keith P Roberts, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

*Rarity: it is a rare example of thorough-going International Modernism applied to a cinema.

*Architectural interest: the façade is a remarkably sophisticated piece of purist geometry, entirely lacking historicist references or Art Deco styling, and the auditorium is a good example of the best streamlined style of the time.

*Intactness: the interior has survived with a high degree of completeness which is now rare for an Odeon cinema.

*Architect: Keith Roberts (1910-1994) was the outstanding designer of International Modern cinemas in Britain, and the former Odeon at Luton is the best remaining example of his work.

History

The building was designed as an Odeon cinema by Keith P Roberts in 1937-38, opening in October 1938. Roberts (1910-1994) was an assistant in the practice of Andrew Mather (1890-1938), one of the principal practices working on the Odeon cinemas during the 1930s. The cinema closed in 1983 and in the same year opened as a bingo hall. The seating and tables in the balcony were added at this time. The bingo hall closed in 1999 and since 2000 the building has been used by the Calvary Church of God in Christ. Apart from the removal of the cinema screens and seats, the building has survived with a high degree of intactness. A partly glazed, Art Deco style kiosk has recently been added in the foyer, and raised steps and railings installed in the former proscenium.

Details

MATERIALS: steel frame clad in brick, with entrance frontage of opaque glass panels and rendered flank. Roof concealed by parapets.

PLAN: rectangular plan of double-height auditorium with single balcony, served by foyers on two levels and offices on three.

EXTERIOR: the street façade is a Modern Movement composition of unusual austerity and confidence. The entrance is on the right, and to the left is the long auditorium side wall of brick, divided into nine bays by pilasters, which runs parallel to the street. The three-storey section above the entrance is recessed and faced with opaque cream glass panels. It has five square windows at second-floor level only. On the right, the rendered section has horizontal windows to all three storeys which turn the corner on to the return wall. Between the recessed section and the auditorium wall rises a fin tower, which originally carried a neon letter '0' at the top, and now has a Latin cross. The flat roof of the tower oversails on the street front. Rendering continues on the right-hand return wall, which has three small staircase windows only. The entrance doors and canopy, with illuminated fascia, date to the later C20.

INTERIOR: inside the entrance doors, there are six steps, with three sets of original moderne style handrails, up to the foyer. The deep foyer has, on the left wall, two sets of double doors to the stalls level of the auditorium, and three shallow saucer-dome lighting features. Straight ahead is an imperial stair leading to the upper foyer, where doors (with original chromium handles and finger plates) give access to the auditorium balcony. The auditorium is large, originally having 1,958 seats. It is double-height, with a series of dramatic streamlined curving lighting coves in the ceiling above the proscenium, which develop into reverse curves and terminate in the side walls. Narrow horizontal banding (with an open-work section for ventilation) in fibrous plaster, flanks the proscenium, and then further back broader banding surmounted by five circular plaster features on each side. On the soffit of the first ceiling cove are a series of saucer domes carrying concentric plaster rings with shallow pendants in the centre of each, which originally supported uplighters. There are panels of honeycomb ventilation openwork in the second ceiling cove. The central tongue of fibrous plaster in the ceiling has three more concentric ringed saucer domes. Broad central vomitory stairs give access to the balcony, the soffit of which has vestigial remains of saucer domes and a line of curving flutings running the full width for ventilation. There are honeycomb ventilator panels in the ceiling over the rear balcony which also retains the original barriers at the crossover gangway and at the rear. The chairs and tables were added when the building was used as a bingo hall.



Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 473118

Legacy System: LBS

Sources

Books and journals
Clegg, R, Odeon, (1985)
'Architecture Illustrated, pp.171-4' in , (December 1938)
Eyles, A, 'Focus on Film' in Oscar And The Odeons, (1975), 45, 56

End of official listing