65 The Parade High Street,
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Despite a very plain facade on the principal shopping street in Watford, the Gaumont was a very fine cinema when it opened on 3rd May 1937 with Will Hay in “Good Morning Boys”, and Will Hay appearing ‘in person’.
It was designed by J. Owen Bond and seated 1,398 in the stalls and 602 in the circle. Above the long entrance foyer was a restaurant.
The wide spacious auditorium had three steppings in the side walls and ceiling, containing concealed lighting, and culminating in a large honeycombe plaster effect either side of the screen. There was a Wurlitzer 3Manual/8Ranks organ installed, which was opened by organist Vincent Collier. The console was damaged in a fire in 1943, and it was rebuilt and re-opened in April 1944. However, the console was destroyed in another small fire at the screen end of the cinema in 1956. It was not replaced and the remains of the instrument were removed in 1959 and reused in a church.
A small stage often had concerts by major pop stars and orchestras.
In 1963 the Odeon cinema further along The Parade closed and in 1964 the Gaumont took the Odeon name. It was tripled in 1974 by the usual Odeon style of a drop wall under the balcony and two small cinemas (here seating 120 each) in the former rear stalls. These were fitted out to a higher standard than usual, the reason supposed to be that several directors of Rank lived in the vicinity. The circle continued, apparently unaltered, using the original screen and containing 612 seats.
However, after a huge offer was made for the site (it was not actually up for sale at the time) the Odeon was closed on 15 October 1983 and was swiftly demolished to provide the area with yet another large supermarket. It had been kept in very good condition throughout its life and as a still profitable cinema was an utter waste to close and demolish such a fine building.
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