12 Balham Hill Road,
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Located at the northern end of Balham Hill Road (closer to Clapham) in southwest London. The Odeon Balham was my first cinema as a child, albeit it shut down when I was 8 years old, so I ‘had’ to go to the then one-screen Streatham Odeon (Astoria Theatre), or the one screen ABC Streatham (the former Regal Cinema).
Opened with great publicity, especially promoting the wonderously modern projection, sound, comfort and air conditioning as part of the wonders of modern architecture and technology, and showing a cartoon in colour, as well as the newsreel, the Odeon opened with “Blondes for Danger” on 16th April 1938. It was built for and operated by the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd.
It was well placed as a ‘super cinema’, having no competition in Balham apart from the Gaumont Clapham, the nearest ‘super competion’ would be comfortably further away to the Granada Tooting, or the Granada Clapham Junction.
Being on a (smallish) hill, Balham Hill, the tower was visible for quite a way, with the Odeon sign illuminated on either side. The foyer, and cafe was lavish, with a large amount of daylight spilling in to the circle foyer. The right-hand side of the front of the building was damaged by a German bomb in May 1941, and this closed the cinema for several weeks until temporary repairs could be carried out.
It survived as a first-run cinema until the early-1970’s, before closing with “Shaft’s Big Score” and “No Blade of Grass” on 9th September 1972.
Balham having a large Asian population helped the cinema re-open as the Liberty Cinema on 13th December 1974, albeit later, on a bit of a ‘shoestring’ budget and finally operating at weekends only. The Liberty Cinema closed it’s doors in 1980.
Local schoolkids had ‘fun’ breaking many windows with stones and breaking in and wreaking havoc with fire extinguishers…
The auditorium was demolished round about May 1985, and the Majestic Wine Warehouse took over the front and foyer of this cinema.
Later, flats were built on the auditorium site, and then in the upstairs circle foyer, hence the name ‘Foyer Apartments’.
The frontage, thankfully… survives.
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