Last week for Odeon York, England.

posted by Tim on August 27, 2006 at 8:30 am

YORK, ENGLAND — The 69 year old Odeon Cinema, in York, has entered its final week of showing films. The fantastic grade II listed Art Deco monument is the last of the city’s original picture houses and undoubtedly one of the best examples of its type in the country.

As part of the famous Odeon circuit of cinema built up by Oscar Deutsch (1893-1941), the York Odeon is one of two that had to be specially designed and executed because of the historic surroundings in which they were situated. The other was/is at Chester but York’s is regarded as the better of the two, with its moderne streamlined outline and excellent brick detailing.

Threats of closure came about in 2003 when the Odeon company were refused permission to carry out an insensitive re-branding scheme which would have removed the last original name sign of its type in the whole of the UK and the carving up of the building largest auditorium into bland smaller units.

Following the announcement that they were “assessing the site for its economic viability” campaigners began a petition in the hope that we could change their mind and bring about a historically sensitive refurbishment. It would have been an excellent opportunity to uncover original features and detailing including a spectacular mural in the former balcony foyer which consisted of historical figures interpersed with a 1930’s film crew.

This feature has been languishing above a later lowered false ceiling for over 40 years.
In a little over 9 weeks, we collected over 14,000 signatures and a wide range of support from the local community. However, nearly 3 years on, Odeon finally announced that they were closing the cinema and selling on the lease.

Sadly, throughout our campaign, we have received little feedback or comments from the owners which only goes to prove that they have little interest in the older properties in their circuit and favor the running of more modern multiplexes.

We have been told by the Odeon company that nobody has come forward to take on the lease although we have no details on how this is being marketed. Our fears now are that the building will be left empty and prone to vandalism and damage from the elements.

This is a rare survivor from the days where you actually had some atmosphere when you went to see a film, and deserves to be recognized as a building of national importance. The cinema is still structurally sound and a sensitive refurbishment would not be financially crippling to any new owner.

Campaigners, myself included, are still working towards securing a future for this rare gem and we hope that visitors to this page will offer messages of support.

For those of you in the York area this week, now is your chance to check out this forgotten marvel.

This coming Thursday the 31st of August is the final day and the last show in Screen 1, which seats nearly 800 people. It is the 20.05pm showing of the comedy, “You, Me & Dupree” starring Kate Hudson, Owen Wilson and Matt Dillon.

(Thanks to Tim Addyman for providing the photo.)

Theaters in this post

Comments (13)

cinemajames on August 27, 2006 at 8:52 am

Many now wonder if the local council were right in refusing to allow that original and beautiful sign on the FOH to be changed – I bet they did not realise that the refusal really upset the owners who said they would close it if permission was not granted, and the council called their bluff! it was not a bluff!
Being listed Grade II could help – I releived there in the 60’s when George Shepherd was the very long time Manager.
Good Night, Dear Odeon York

NativeForestHiller on August 27, 2006 at 8:18 pm

The Odeon York is one of the greatest testaments to Art Deco theater architecture that I’ve seen. It makes a grand statement from a distance away. Thanks Tim for contributing to a worthwhile cause! It is highly essential for this theater to be preserved in its entirety, and find a new lease on life soon. Good luck!!!

  • Michael from N.Y.
Tim on August 28, 2006 at 4:11 am

Thanks for your message Michael, This is a building I have had a great passion about for a long long time. I saw Star Wars here when I was five years of age and many other memorable films.
York is world reknowned for its historic architecture and this is, by far, the most important example from the 20th century that the city has.
The exterior looks almost exactly the same as the day it opened whilst internally,there behind the layers of later paint and 1960s/70s refurbishments are glimpses of original deco fittings. From doors to railings, windows and even some of the seating.
Now the work begins on finding a future for this monument to the golden age of cinema. Not mothballed as a museum, but new cutting edge cinema technology hand in hand with a restored period interior.What an asset this would be to York.
It seems to work in other countries so I don’t know why the UK is so slow to catch on.
Maybe it to do with the fact that cinema circuits here seem to be owned by private equity firms who have no interests in film presentation only redevelopment potential.
I have so many ideas how this cinema could become a flagship that I certainly aren’t giving up hope.
Now all I need is the money :¬)))

boogascool on August 30, 2006 at 12:25 pm

tim and everyone- I love all the old odeons – in fact i think i may have bid against you on ebay for the odeon ashtray a while back – i dont know. Just wanted to say that you should be praised for all your current and future efforts. Ive read and watched carefully all that has happened – i live in Lincolnshire and last Sunday my girlfriend and i came to York to see a film in screen 1 – possibly the last and definitely my only ever visit to the cinema- what a great building – i was saddened of its closure on Thursday- it was so sad the foyer- the foyer and all was being run down sadly- no posters on the wall up to the screen on 1 and just left to run down – the signs about the heating breaking down earlier in the year still hanging on the door and a general low moment until i entered the screen 1 and i can just imagine it in all its glory- my mother had passed away less than 24 hours previous and i had to see this cinema-
its like 2 bereavements this week im dealing with.
I hope it can find a company to continue- i read somewhere norwich union own it and value it at 3.5 million-?– with Bradford odeon on its way out and liverpool next year and chester looking bleak – what on earth can uk enthusiasts (cant spell) do.
Did anybody see the programme on bbc about the family that were to lose the inherited farm from there elders unless they could raise 500 thousand pounds-they sold shares in the farm and raised the whole amount. I’m not rich at all but im happy to pledge £10,000 and borrow it to get the ball rolling . Could we possibly get 349 other people to do the same? Could The York odeon be bought by a majority of cta members? maybe i am being over passionate here but.
Hartlepool art deco odeon that i have no knowledge of its interior at 500,000 pounds for sale right now maybe could be more conceivable for us enthusiasts to buy? York odeon – fingers crossed – lets hope it can find another cinema owner- kindest regards and i hope the Friday night last showing has a full house – would like to hear any report of the last night- well done Tim for all that you have done over the past few years- kindest regards – Ian jakeman

Tim on August 31, 2006 at 2:11 am

Ian- Thanks for the message of support, its very much appreciated. Its often an uphill struggle sometimes with campaigning but it heartens me to hear from like minded individuals. As an eBay addict its more than likely that was me you were bidding against for the Odeon ashtray which has pride of place in my cinema fixtures collection.
I’m very sorry to hear of your bereavement but appreciate you taking the time in making it to the Odeon before closure.
We’re told by Odeon that no-one wants to take on the lease of the cinema because of the costs involved in refurbishing it, which personally I think is a load of rubbish. There is nothing structurally wrong with the building and improvements could be made with little outlay to begin with. Funds could then be generated to look at starting a restoration project (the hidden mural for example) and perhaps more comfortable seating. All this could be done in phases.
There could be the provision of a cafe bar or grille in the upstairs foyer. The possibilities are endless.
I am still plugging away the importance of this building with the freehold owners Norwich Union, and by coincidence who I work for, as a community venue and worthwhile restoration project.
They say their hands are tied at present as it is Odeon who are marketing the sale of their lease and it is up to the tenant what they do with their business!! Don’t worry though I’ll take this to the companies Chief Executive if I have to. They have a responsibility to look after this building or find an organisation that will.
I’ve been plugging away also with the local media to get our message out there, both on Radio York last week and this morning on the BBC Look North programme.
It may close to the public today, but it won’t be closing permanently whilst people are still fighting for it.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be a full house for the last screening tonight.
I will update everyone with a report tomorrow.
Thanks again Ian.

jbn6773 on August 31, 2006 at 1:15 pm

On the Odeon Website 12.08am Sept 1st:

“We are sad to announce that ODEON York is now closed.

We would like to thank all our guests over the past years for your business and support. For enquiries about unused ODEON Vouchers please contact us here. "

I bet the corporate suits are really SAD!!!

Keep it up Tim, we will get her back in business one day


Tim on September 1, 2006 at 10:10 pm

I drove past the cinema last night and found it had already been boarded up. Good in a way that they have moved quickly to deter York’s vandal element but still depressing to see.
A friend of mine asked a member of the cinemas staff why they hadn’t done anything special for the last night. We were told that the cinemas managers HAD wanted to do something special but that their regional office had said NO.
Goes to show how much love the Odeon company had for their York site.
But don’t worry the closure was marked by a poster in one of the cases outside!!!!!!!

georgepomone on September 6, 2006 at 2:57 pm

I hope they didn’t remove too much from the boxes as they normally do so cinema use in the future is impossible.

Tim on September 8, 2006 at 11:24 pm

From what I’ve been told, all the projection equipment is being removed by Odeon and put into their store. Seats, draperies etc are supposed to be left in situ.

belle on September 22, 2006 at 2:36 pm

We are a world famous show venue looking to acquire the leasehold of a good location vacant cinema. We are interested on the leasehold of the York cinema. Does anyone know who is marketing this property as Odean never seem to want to be contacted.
Please leave number or agent if known or email .uk

knowhowe on October 16, 2006 at 1:35 pm

Very depressing to learn of the closure of your Odeon, especially so as this charming company last June flogged off its much-loved sister house here in Chester- to a nightclub developer!

Unlike York, where, I learn, you refused to kow-tow to the Odeon’s demands for their absurd corporate ’re-branding', it went ahead here- our planners expressed unhappiness about it but Odeon threatened to close if they didn’t get their way and there was, of course, a prompt back-down. The rebranding went ahead- the old red sign was replaced with a blue one- and, mere months later, they sold it anyway. So don’t blame yourselves.
The buyers, Brook Leisure, who operate night clubs in Doncaster, Huddersfield and Oldham, have, for the moment, leased the building back to Odeon and have declared that the cinema will continue to operate “for the next couple of years”. Rupert Gavin, chief executive of Odeon and UCI Cinemas, said they had taken the lease on the building from the new owners until they came to a decision as to its fate- and, having done so, “to obtain the necessary planning approvals”.
He continued, “We are always very reluctant to leave any city in the UK” (we thought we were the only one until we heard about York!) “but, regrettably, with the increasing amount of new competition with modern facilities coming into Chester and the surrounding area, the profitability of running an old building like the Odeon Chester has become increasingly unviable”.
Just what all this “modern new competition” springing up may be is somewhat of a mystery to the locals. Our only city centre theatre, the Gateway, is approaching the end of its final season and is being torn down next year to make way for a huge shopping/yuppy flats development (coincidentally right next door to the cinema) and the site of our award-winning swimming and leisure complex, the Northgate Arena (also very close by), has been flogged off for the erection of a Hilton hotel, of all things.

To learn a little about, and see some pictures of, this and Chester’s many other ‘lost cinemas’, visit,

lsd on February 17, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Terrible news, teriible. I had the good fortune to grow up just outside York and my Friday nights were often spent doing various things, one of which was meeting girls outside the Odeon Cinema on Blossom Street, decked out in some orange tab Levis and smelling of Lynx. Inside Screen One, toward the back left, I experienced the excitement of Movies, LSD and what it’s like to have unprotected sex on a cinema chair on a weekly basis. I ’m now living in New York and although I still like the occasional Friday night out at the cinemas in Times Square, one quite can’t recapture that Odeon Magic. I recently took a winter vacation to Miami and saw for myself that the vast majority of South Beach is made up of breathtakingly great-looking Art Deco buildings, all immaculate, all freshly painted and all of them functional and obviously loved. The Odeon probably won’t be able to be a cinema if the City Screen and that nasty cinema out on cliffords moor are still competing so (it doesn’t have to be it’s the building that I love), why not paint it white and turquoise, put a pool on the roof and turn it into York’s finest hotel. You could even call it the Delano!!

louby on March 6, 2007 at 8:59 am

Hopefully you will be able to do something about this wonderful building a lot quicker than the campaigners have been able to in Bradford. Closed to the public in 2000, the Odeon still stands there, covered in weeds. There should be a national “save our cinemas” movement!

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