Odeon Southend-on-Sea

127 High Street,
Southend-on-Sea, SS1

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Odeon Southend-on-Sea

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Located in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. A large and lavish cinema, the Astoria Cinema opened in a Moderne Streamlined style, with 2,750 seats on 15th July 1935. It was one of several Astoria Cinema’s opened in south-east England coastal towns in the mid-1930’s.

It had a 56 feet wide proscenium, a fully equipped 40 feet deep stage with 14 dressing rooms and a Compton 4Manual/10Ranks organ with a Melotone attachment and an illuminated console. All lighting in the pink and bronze auditorium was indirect and the decorative scheme was carried out to the plans of interior decorators Mollo & Egan. There was also a café/dance studio.

The exterior was finished in polished beige artificial stone with three large arched metal windows above the entrance – not unlike the Whitehall Theatre in London.

In June 1936 it was taken over by County Cinemas, and in September 1939they were taken over by the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd. It was re-named Odeon on 9th June 1940.

It was equipped with CinemaScope in 1954. It had a major refurbishment in 1960 when seating was reduced to 2,286 by way of increased leg room.

Closed on 7th January 1970 for a complete reconstruction involving creating Odeon 1 cinema in the old cafe area seating 500, and extending the former balcony forward to create Odeon 2 with 1,350 seats. The new result was a comfortable but rather bland auditoria which re-opened on 4th November 1970. A new entrance had been created on the side of the building which had originally been an exit.

A supermarket was created in the former stalls and stage area, and used the original main entrance.

The Odeon was closed on 5th April 1997, due to a new 8-screen Odeon multiplex which had opened in the town centre on 22nd November 1996.

The Odeon stood unused until it was was demolished between July 2004 and January 2005. A University of Essex campus building has been built on the site.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 8, 2004 at 1:08 pm

The architect of the Astoria was Edward A. Stone in association with T.R. Somerford.

philbass on December 2, 2004 at 8:56 am

A few loose ends:

Hosted pop music concerts in the 1960s, with all the big names of the day visiting at some point (Beatles, Stones, Who etc).

The Compton organ was removed during the refurb of 1969/70, and sold to a private collector.

During the early/mid 1970s the Southend Odeon ran a popular Saturday morning kids picture club in the bigger #2 auditorium, “The Super Saturday Show” with the usual fare of cartoons and wholesome Childrens Film Foundation shorts, and an interval in the middle. I used to go regularly! At the end of the show, the National Anthem was still played.

The Odeon actually closed in 1998. There was an attempt to keep this splendid building open after the new multiplex opened in Southend, but it was presumably not economically viable to run the two cinemas simultaneously. The last films shown were “Space Jam” in auditorium 1, and “Star Wars” (on reissue) in #2.

Building is currently (Dec 2004) still being demolished. Construction of the new Essex University site starts in January 2005.

blakey692002 on May 11, 2005 at 8:13 am

I can confirm that demolition of this Odeon was completed by January 2005, and the site is now levelled ready for new building work for the college. My colleague Peter Hammond and i were among the last to enter the building, and took much photographic material for posterity. Several useful items of cinema related equipment were also removed prior to demolition. The seating and the best of the projectors had been removed shortly after closure and laterly some of the sound and lighting equipment and curtaining was utilised in a local theatre. In all honesty, apart from the sculptured ceiling and a small amount of plasterwork on one wall of the original Circle holding area, all traces of the building’s Art Deco heritage had been swept away in the 1969/70 re-build. Traces of the original hydraulic orchestra pit were still visible, and the organ pipe chambers were still traceable. Despite reports, the original entrance and facade has also been demolished along with the auditoria.

mrtrumpy on August 21, 2005 at 5:03 am

Any chance of some of the pictures you took for my sons homework?

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on September 11, 2005 at 7:50 am

A 1971 photograph showing the ‘new’ entrance on the side of the building, which was formally an exit. The original main entrance, foyer, stalls seating area and stage were by this time being used as a supermarket.
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Southendnick on October 19, 2005 at 6:59 am


I’m new here just found the site, very very intresting

I beleve the seats from the Southend Odeon still surrive and amazingly are still in the town!

even more amazing they are still in use and yet even more amazing they are now in the old ABC now home to the New Empire Theatre.

From what I can rember the original ABC seats were removed when it closed so when the new owners took over they got talking with the Odeon owners and got them free or at a greatly reduced cost.

Also the projection equpment from the Odeo was saved and went to a working Preserved cinima “up North”.

Hope this is of some intrest and help, at least the Twin domes of the odeon were kept.


jrhine on February 22, 2008 at 5:28 pm

The Compton organ in this theater was a 4/11.

stephenpugh123 on March 29, 2009 at 1:58 pm

The Odeon cinema was enormous. whilst in its multiplex mode, the Supermarket was right at the front and I think, was called Fine Fare; certainly the house colour was yellow and blue. It occupied the foyer area of the original cinema,( not the back: see above) which was bigger than most cinemas. Overhead there was a circular opening (part of the upstairs foyer) which you could look over to the main foyer. Sometimes there were exhibitions upstairs. Notably the Police put on a large crime detection and road safety exhibition where they showed a fascinating range of weaponry; knuckle dusters axe handles etc. etc. They even had a machine for testing the braking responses of drivers.

The main cinema had six entrance doors into the auditorium and at the sides there were holding areas where you could stand and at least not miss the big picture. I saw the first cinemascope film there, ‘The Robe’, with my parents and only got a seat about an hour into the film. It was 1/6d (seven and a half p to get in,for adults and, half for children.

The judging of the Southend Carnival Queen was sometimes held there and this was the only time that I ever heard the organ being played. I like modern architecture a lot but the current College building on the site now is an abomination.

Top Alec.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm

“U” rated film.SOMEONE explain the British rating system to me.Why can’t they just use the MPAA.

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