The Odeon Cinema

In 1996, the Stephen Joseph Theatre opened its doors to the public following a major conversion of Scarborough's former Odeon cinema into the new theatre. As part of the conversion agreement, Scarborough Theatre Trust restored the theatre's front-of-house areas to resemble the design of the original Odeon and the facade of the building was also restored.
The Odeon, Scarborough, opened in 1936 and was designed by J. Cecil Clavering and Robert Bullivant with Harry Weedon as the architect. Built in the Art Deco style, it featured interior design by Mollo and Egan who broke with the Odeon’s tradition of simple decoration. The opulent decoration of the building was meant to represent lush tropical vegetation and gave the interior of the building an exotic and fresh visual appeal.

The building was unusually placed for an Odeon cinema; rather than being built in the town centre or the sea-front, it was built opposite the railway station. It was reasoned the Odeon would be the first thing the majority of Scarborough holiday-makers would see when they arrived in town. Additional to this, the cinema boasted a large cafe with a panoramic view of the town centre, which apparently added £3,200 to the building costs. The final cost of the cinema was £38,700 and it was built by the company Jonathan Partington Ltd, of Manchester.

The single screen cinema seated 1,711 people - 946 in the stalls and 765 in the balcony. The Odeon's first manager was Mr Edward G Rhodes. The cinema featured protection and sound equipment by the British firm, Thomson-Houston, and was considered state-of-the-art for the time.

The Odeon was opened on 28 March 1936 by Sir Kenelm Cayley. The evening included a special appearance by the Scarborough-born actor Charles Laughton, the first British person to win an Oscar for Best Actor with
The Private Life Of Henry VIII, who was coincidentally in town to see his family.

Music for the evening was produced by The Harry Peel Premiers before the presentation of
The Ghost Goes West, starring Robert Donat and directed by Rene Clair; coincidentally one of Alan Ayckbourn’s favourite directors.

The Odeon closed on 21 October, 1988, with the movie
Buster, starring Phil Collins. Aside from the Odeon, Leicester Square, it was the last single screen Odeon still operating in the UK at that point. Upon closing, the initial proposals for the empty building were to convert it into a bingo hall. Fortunately, Sir Alan Ayckbourn had the foresight to see the building's potential as the first permanent home for the theatre company founded in Scarborough in 1955. It would re-open eight years later as the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

The Odeon cinemas (or the Deutsch - Odeon Chain of Modern Super Cinemas as they were officially known at the time) was created and run by Oscar Deutsch. Odeon was chosen as a name because Deutsch liked its original connotation (a Greek word for 'singing place' and an early performance space) but also, undoubtedly, because it could be used as an acronym for its founder:
Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation.

The Odeon organisation was founded in 1933 and the first Odeon was built in Birmingham. There followed an almost unimaginable building schedule with an average of 50 Odeons a year being built in the first four years alone; all distinctive buildings which carried a familiar art deco influenced architectural style from building to building. The Odeon arguably became the most famous cinema chain in the UK during its heyday.

The Opening Night Programme

The Odeon, Scarborough, had its 'Grand Opening' on 28 March 1936 and a special 24 page souvenir programme was produced for that evening's guests. On the centre pages, there was a list of the evening's events with every programme having a hastily added sticker proclaiming 'Personal appearance of Charles Laughton' who happened to be in Scarborough visiting his family at the time. The schedule is reproduced below.
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The Odeon's auditorium when it first opened in 1936 © English Heritage

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The Odeon auditorium circa its closure in 1988 © TBC

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Scarborough's Odeon cinema in the week of its opening in 1936 © English Heritage

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Cover of the first night programme for the Odeon on 28 march 1936 © TBC

Article by and copyright of Simon Murgatroyd. Images copyright of the respective copyright holder. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.