Odeon Luxe Swiss Cottage & IMAX

96 Finchley Road,
London, NW3 5EL

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Odeon Swiss Cottage

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Located in the north London district of South Hampstead on the busy Finchley Road opposite Swiss Cottage Underground (tube) Station (Jubilee Line). The Odeon Swiss Cottage was one of the original cinemas in the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd. It opened on 4th September 1937 with Leslie Banks starring in “Farewell Again”. It was one of only nine of the original Odeon Theatres to be equipped with a theatre organ, in this instance it was a Compton 3Manual/8Ranks (with Melotone & Grand Piano)and illuminated console which was opened by organist Alfred Richards.

The exterior of the building was rather plain and was basically a brick box. The facade relieved of its drabness by a series of seven tall recessed windows which let light into the circle foyer. Inside the auditorium, there were a series of stepped deep troughs on both the ceiling and side walls that contained indirect lighting. The original seating capacity was 2,115; with 1,281 in the stalls and 834 in the circle.

This interior was ‘modernised’ in 1960 and from 25th February 1973 the Odeon became a triple screen operation which were located in the former circle and two smaller screens in the rear stalls area. From 19th June 1992 three further screens were added which were located in the former front stalls, on the stage and in the fomer circle foyer. There is now little remaining of the original decorative features within the building, but the exterior remains basically as built.

It continued as a 6 screen Odeon with seating capacities in the screens given in 2008 as; 715, 111, 217, 120, 154 and 156, giving a total seating capacity for 1,473. Catering to the local community, despite newer purpose built multiplex cinemas operating in the neighborhood.

It was closed in April 2011, for a complete modernisation which included installation of an IMAX auditorium, new seats and screens, and re-opened on 16th September 2011. Now with 5 screens, the 307-seat IMAX screen is located in the former circle, the side-walls of which have been brought in by around 12 feet on each side. There is an original decorative plaster band and one of the lighting troughs in the ceiling, but are difficult to see as the entire space is painted a dark blue. A new projection box has been built at the rear of the former circle, with the original projection box behind the rear circle back wall now abandoned. The other screens seat;171, 76, 61 & 61. All are fully digital, although the 171 seat screen has retained a 35mm projector. In December 2017 screens 2 – 5 were upgraded and re-seated to become an Odeon Luxe cinemas with reduced seating capacities of 71, 50, 53 & 49.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

Mike_Blakemore on September 30, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Have loaded a better picture

davepring on October 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I visited the Swiss Cottage Odeon today to see their IMAX presentation of Skyfall. I am normally very critical of Odeon sites but this one exceeds all expectations. There is little remaining of the Art Deco interior but at least the circle foyer has been reinstated and is now the stylish Amber Bar. The Imax auditorium, the former circle is massive and the deco ceiling troughs are still in situ and the screen presentation was impressive.

glyn_lewis on November 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm

In 1937 the premiere of “Dark Journey” was given here, attended by its stars Conrad Veidt & Vivien Leigh.

PhilipWW on October 10, 2017 at 5:43 am

Screens 4 and 5, albeit relatively small with just 61 seats each, do have impressive Scope screens with side masking. All the seats are designated ‘Club’ and are very spacious with plenty of legroom. Although the flooring is sloped, rather than stepped, the sight lines are good. These are good screens to see movies in.

Although I did not see inside Screens 2 and 3, I was told that thy too have full Scope screens (though I’m not too sure that the person I spoke to fully understood what I was asking).

Upstairs the Screen 1 IMAX theatre is in the old balcony area. The seating here is stepped and the screen impressively large in, I presume, about an 1.90 ratio for digital IMAX presentations. The film I saw was standard Scope which had to be “letterboxed” for the screen; that worked fine as the auditorium was very dark. The picture was still impressively large.

In all I thought this Odeon a good place to watch movies and a good conversion to a multiplex.

CF100 on December 11, 2017 at 8:44 am

A Time Out article contains a photo of the new “Luxe” auditorium at Swiss Cottage.

terry on December 12, 2017 at 2:44 pm

The home page photo depicts a cold looking, devoid of atmosphere auditorium with – as usual – the bare screen staring one in the face……

PhilipWW on December 14, 2017 at 7:09 am

Four of the five screens (Nos 2 to 5) have been refurbished and rebranded as ‘Odeon Luxe’.

The IMAX Screen 1 remains the same with 307 seats. The new (and reduced) capacities in the other screens are: Screen 2 (71), Screen 3 (50), Screen 4 (53) and Screen 5 (49) which gives a total capacity of 530. The figures have been taken from the Odeon web-site.

The seating capacities of screens 4 and 5 are only slightly reduced because they were already fitted with luxury seats.

Mention is made in a comment below to a photo in a ‘Time Out’ article. I rather think that Odeon are using generic photos in their publicity for Luxe cinemas, so that photo is probably not of one of the Swiss Cottage auditoria. I think I have seen it used before.

terry on December 14, 2017 at 2:32 pm

A Local Assistant of mine with ABC had worked at the Odeon Swiss Cottage during WW2 and had done ‘fire watch’ duty on the flat roof. She said it was a lovely theatre at that time.

I suspect that the profile photo may actually be that of the narrowed circle at Swiss Cottage which comprises the Screen1/IMAX auditorium.

If Odeon are determined to persist with their ‘no tabs’ policy (as I suspect will be the case) they could at least choose a more restful and warm colour scheme than ‘Royal Blue’.

CF100 on December 14, 2017 at 2:44 pm

PhilipWW: You may well be correct. The last film I saw at Swiss Cottage was “The Last Days of Disco”!

Here’s some blurb from an Odeon press release:

–“The New Year will also see ODEON Luxe Swiss Cottage become London’s first ODEON site to house an IMAX® screen complete with ODEON’s newly launched ODEON Luxe reclining seats… –"Screens two and three have also been upgraded with enlarged screens for improved picture quality, providing the ultimate viewing experience… –"Key features of the new ODEON Luxe refurbishments at Swiss Cottage will include: • Four fully-refurbished screens with upgraded Dolby ATMOS sound systems • 12 new speakers across all four standard screens”

Confusingly, the press release also says: “Each cinema will now boast new speakers and Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound across all auditoriums.”

Foyer will also be refurbished, and the venue will feature a new “Oscar’s bar.”

CF100 on December 14, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Terry: I agree with you in that the LUXE auditorium decor scheme is very unimaginative and I’d also say that it has too much of a “domestic” ambience for a cinema. I suppose their intention is for it to look more like a living room!

BTW, comprehensive information is available on Gradus' cinema (or rather leisure venue) lighting systems.

Also, Eomac are their North American distributors.

Alas, whilst they offer a wide range of mounting options, static colour choices are red/green/blue/amber/white.

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