Odeon Luxe Swiss Cottage & IMAX
96 Finchley Road,
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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 and the IMAX screen now has 184 recliner seats.
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