Odeon Tottenham Court Road
156 Tottenham Court Road,
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This huge cinema (the third largest in London’s West End after the Empire Theatre and Dominion Theatre)) opened on 10th February 1936 as the Paramount Theatre. It was also the third cinema in London’s West End to be built and operated by Paramount Pictures Corporation of America (they also had the Plaza Theatre and the Carlton Theatre).
The architects of the Paramount Theatre were Frank Verity and Sam Beverly. Seating was provided for 1,676 in the stalls and 892 in the circle. It was equipped with a Compton 4 Manual/12 Ranks theatre organ (opened by Reginald Foort) and stage shows were presented in the early years. It also had a 130 seat cafe and an adjacent Paramount Ballroom.
This Paramount Theatre was in a second batch of the company’s UK theatres that were purchased by Odeon Theatres in July 1942. It was re-named Odeon in November 1946.
Because of its size it was well suited to be the demonstation theatre for the new 20th Century Fox ‘Cinemascope’ process in June 1953, although initially, this was aimed at showing it off to other exhibitors and it was several months before the general public got to see it.
In 1958, the Odeon was equipped with the giant screen Cinerama-like, 3-projector process called ‘Cinemiracle’ which resulted in the loss of 700 seats and the movie “Windjammer” played here for over six months.
The Odeon closed on 5th March 1960 with Rita Hayworth in “The Story on Page One”. It was demolished almost immediately. Since then the site was used as a ‘temporary’ car-park, which remained in use until it was ‘prepared’ for a proposed extension to a nearby hospital in 2004 (in 2009, the site is still empty and now totally unused!). For many years it was always fascinating to go into the car park, which had a sloping floor just like the cinema had, and look at the faded and peeling plasterwork on the remaining lower walls of the former orchestra level of the once mighty Paramount Theatre.
The adjacent Paramount Court apartment block and basement ballroom designed by Verity and Beverly a few months after the Paramount Theatre remain in use today.
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