9 Angel Row,
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Built for and originally operated by the County Cinemas chain, this opened as the Ritz Cinema. Local architect Albert J. Thraves was also brought in by the main architects Verity & Beverley.
The main facade on busy Angel Row was narrow and gave no indication to the size of the vast auditorium that lay behind it. The Ritz Cinema was fully equipped with a large stage, a Conacher 4Manual/22Rank theatre organ which was designed by organist Reginald Foort (who opened the instrument) and a large cafe/restaurant. The opening film on 4th December 1933 was “The Private Lives of Henry VIII” starring Charles Laughton.
Odeon Theatres Ltd. gained a controlling interest in County Cinemas from 1935 and took full control in 1939, but the Ritz Cinema retained its name until 1944 when it was re-named Odeon.
The Conacher organ was last used during the run of the Todd A.O. production of “South Pacific” and was removed from the theatre in 1964 and split up. The stage was used less often in later years, but did get a short term re-use in the early-1960’s when pop groups such as The Beatles played in concerts to packed houses in the theatre.
The original auditorium was destroyed in 1964 when the Odeon became the first cinema in the United Kingdom to be split into a twin screen operation. The architectural firm Harry W. Weedon Partnership were responsible for the conversion, with Trevor Stone & Mavis Stone the interior design consultants. It re-opened on 12th July 1965 with two modern curtain walled auditoriums. The upper Odeon 1 in the former circle had 924 seats and was designed as a showcase for roadshow presentations and opened with “The Sound of Music”. The Odeon 2 screen in the former orchestra stalls level had 1,450 seats and played regular releases, opening with “Mary Poppins”.
Odeon 2 was further sub-divided in 1976 when it was made into 3 screens seating 500, 130 and 110. A new screen, Odeon 5 was fitted into a former basement reception room and had 101 seats. In 1988 another room in the basement was made into Odeon 6 which seated 90 persons.
The Odeon 1-6 closed on 26th January 2001 and stood unused until September 2012, when demolition commenced. A hotel, apartments, shops and a car park are planned for the site.
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