Odeon Kensington

263 High Street,
London, W8 6NA

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Sept 26, 2010

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Located in the west London inner city district of Kensington. The Kensington Kinema opened on 3rd January 1926. It had an original seating capacity of 2,370 in stalls and circle levels. It was built for and operated by the small Joseph Mears circuit and like their other cinemas was built in an affluent area of London and named after the district.

The Kensington Kinema was one of the earliest steel framed buildings to be built in the UK, a method of construction that became prevelant with cinema buildings in the 1930’s. The imposing Neo-Classical style facade is dominated by a huge deeply recessed entrance, remeniscent of a proscenium opening. The interior was decorated in what could be described as Neo-Greek style which had a coffered ceiling. The Kensington Kinema was equipped with a Christie 3Manual theatre organ.

It was re-named Majestic Cinema in July 1940 (in case German parachutists would identify their wherabouts) and it was closed, and taken over by the Government for war-time storage.

It was taken over by the Rank Organisation from 3rd January 1944 and was re-opened as the Odeon on 9th October 1944. Over the years it has undergone several modernisations internally and became a triple screen cinema from 22nd April 1976. A 4th screen opened in September 1980 and two further screens were added in July 1991.

The Odeon underwent a total refurbishment in July 1998 and although the exterior remains as built, there is nothing remaining to be seen of the once ornate auditorium (there are some details remaining in areas out of public view). In 2008, the seating capacities given is the screens were; 520, 66, 91, 267, 173 and 209. It continues to serve the local community, although there were rumours going around in the summer 2005 to demolish and build a Tesco supermarket on the site. These plans have been the subject of much debate, which are still being fought over in 2015.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

porterfaulkner on March 1, 2008 at 12:42 am

The local council have approved demolition imminently but retention of the facade. This in spite of there being whole sections of the theatre in their original state. These are mostly out of view to public or behind modern walls.This is a great loss for the community, a complete turnaround by Odeon who were recently premiereing films here as an alternative to Leicester Square.It was always considered by Odeon as one of the prestige venues.

HowardBHaas on March 1, 2008 at 6:06 am

1999 Time Out (count about the same in more recent versions) of Time Out London says 520 seats in Aud 1; 2: 66, 3: 91, 4: 265, 5:171, 6: 204 and that (in 1999)screens 2 & 3 were air conditioned.

How was the theater divided up, in terms of which screens were placed in Stalls and in Circle and anywhere else? Where’s the 520 seat auditorium & what’s it like? (how big is the screen)

SethLewis on August 2, 2008 at 2:44 am

Am fully expecting that this theater will be demolished and replaced with residential sooner than later…the good news is that the internal / underground screens that Odeon has created aren’t the worst and that in x years a modern 5 screener will be better than the 1 great 2 ok 2 frankly small screens we’ve got now will be an improvement…Some fun times over the years here from Breaking Away with my mom in 1980 when it was a 4 screener to Silence of the Lambs and Sleeping with the Enemy and 4 Weddings in the big screen in the 90s to The Departed last year (Nigel Havers and I in a tizzy for the length of the queue), Fun with Dick and Jane, a preview of Moulin Rouge, and in smaller screens In Her Shoes, Adaptation, Black Hawk Down and despite my respect for Anthony Minghella Cold Mountain which I found endless…always a pretty well run moviegoing experience

SethLewis on August 2, 2008 at 11:15 am

Add to the above A History of Violence, Reign of Fire (running out every few minutes to negociate a job offer), Bedazzled, The Life Aquatic

JohnHolloway on September 12, 2008 at 5:35 am

HowardBHaas’s photo of the curtain brings back memories of my visit to London last year when I caught a movie at the Tottenham Court Road Odeon. One can only guess that these purple house tabs are now the Odeon “style”. Auditorium at Tottenham Court was pitch black save for a spotlight centred on the curtain (as above). NOT a good look.

Sapho on January 2, 2009 at 6:02 pm

I love this cinema, such great memories of skiving school and spending warm comfy afternoons here. I saw so many great movies here in the late 80s (before I got to ten), and I even enjoyed going here through the 90s. I live in East London, so it is hard to get there, and in spite of it being turned into a Multiplex, I love this building, it has such great atmosphere, and if they demolish this it will be a very sad day indeed.

woody on March 4, 2009 at 6:12 am

photo of the frontage and box office at dusk september 2008

FanaticalAboutOdeon on May 4, 2013 at 4:15 pm

The curtains are blue (though partly lit magenta) and yes, blue is the circuit colour for screen curtains. The Odeon, Leicester Square has blue satin screen curtains and silver satin house curtains but in the majority of Odeons, curtains are no longer used, the screens simply having a blue LED surround which definitely is not a “good look”!

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