Odeon Sunderland

44 Holmeside,
Sunderland, SR1 3JE

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Odeon Cinema Sunderland

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Black’s Regal Theatre was built on the site of the Olympia Exhibition Hall and Pleasuredrome (1897-1910) and it was built for the northern independent Black’s circuit. It opened on 28th March 1932 with Jessie Matthews in “Out of the Blue”.

The theatre was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/9Ranks theatre organ which had an Art Deco style console on a lift. This was opened by organist J. Arnold Eagle. The policy of the theatre for many years was pictures and variety and it had a 57 feet wide proscenium, the stage was 40 feet deep and there were 10 dressing rooms. Other facilities included a cafe and roller rink.

In 1955 the Black’s circuit was taken over by the Rank Organisation and the Regal was re-named Odeon from 28th November 1955. It was divided into a three screen cinema in 1975 with 1,200 seats in the former circle and two 150 seat screens in the rear stalls.

On 28th March 1982 a special 50th Anniversary concert was given by Phil Kelsall on the Compton organ. Three months later, on 26th June 1982 the Odeon was closed with “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Star Wars” & “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions”. The building was boarded up and abandonded for a long period of time.

However it was to re-open as a Top Rank Bingo Club and remains in use today as a Mecca Bingo Club. In July 2009, it was announced that the building and the entire block had been the subject of a compulsory purchase order.

Contributed by Paul Wynn, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

paulwynn on August 14, 2009 at 11:11 am

excellent!many thanks for taking the time in writing that – any more?I only remeber after the alterations – when it re-opened and I was gob smacked at how beautiful Odeon 1 was and how I wanted to have a look around behind the scenes!The mighty organ at the Saturday morning club , being played.
I also never realised how good the old Ritz/ABC looked prior to being ripped apart!

Ian on August 20, 2010 at 12:46 am

Four more photo’s, including a detail of one of the “dancing ladies”, taken in August 2010 here.





The entire building is now threatened with demolition to facilitate a road widening scheme which only requires part of the long narrow entrance hall.

wmr on August 20, 2010 at 6:04 am

It was also lovely to look, (perhaps for a last glimpse) the almighty Paramount/Odeon Newcastle. Again the new owners have made sure it is depleted of anything so they can make money. These people just buy the cinema circuits to sell them off to make money. The heritage of these buildings has gone forever. We used to call the Rank Organisation (being an ex Independant Cinema owner), but you knew that Rank had the business at heart really, and now of course we really miss the group as it was. Thanks again for such a nostalgic look at these wonderful Cinemas.

paulwynn on January 18, 2011 at 2:08 am

will be devasting if the grand old building comes down as it has so much character. Would anyone know if we are able to view or tour?

machem on April 24, 2015 at 8:59 am

Ah, such sweet memories. When I was a kid we used to I used to look forward to the saturday matinees at the Odeon. It was a tanner to get in and if it was your birthday you went on stage to get a goody bag. I saw many great films at this theatre and I always remember that there were two entrances to the theatre because it was so huge. Much better than the multiplex cubicles you get now. I think that this building should be listed as the inside decor was wonderfully art deco.

terry on January 23, 2016 at 7:44 am

The 1200 seat screen 1 consisted of 737 seats in the former circle with the remainder of the capacity occupying the front stalls which was only very occasionally opened as an overflow area. I thought I would mention this just in case anyone imagined that it had a 1200 seat circle…….

terry on March 11, 2016 at 11:13 am

Photo and cutting relating to the theatre’s 50th Anniversary celebrations uploaded to the relevant section. I make reference to the organist being Douglas Reeve and not Phil Kelsall as reported in the article. Perhaps someone can shed some light here…

terry on March 12, 2016 at 1:42 pm

I now know that there was a second concert at the Odeon to commemorate the 50th Anniversary and this was when Phil Kelsall was the guest organist. I was obviously unable to attend this event – probably because I was in Chester at the time. I have uploaded a photo (courtesy Sunderland Theatre Organ Preservation Society) relating to the second event in the relevant section.

terry on March 22, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Auditorium photo uploaded.

terry on March 22, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Manager, Brett Childes invited me to the last night of the Odeon in 1982; the theatre, until latterly, had had two Assistant Managers but at the very end there was only Brett and a Local Assistant, Pam Freer who was always off at the weekends.

The large Screen 1 , with the umpteenth rerun of ‘One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest’, was sparsely attended and I remember seeing a group of people in the circle taking ‘last night’ photos of the still impressive auditorium. Screen 2 , with the ‘Star Wars’ double bill, was full to capacity (good to see) and,if my memory serves me correctly, even the rather raunchy fare in Screen 3 was quite well attended.

I was a Manager with rival ABC and I was either on holiday or had the weekend off (we had one in four weekends at that time). Brett asked me to help him with the final returns in the General Office which, being not unlike ABC’s, was not a problem. So, for the record, the very last Business Report of the Odeon was completed by an ABC employee!

I am sure that the late Brett Childes would not mind my adding this piece of irony, given that it is now almost 34 years ago……

Re the 50th Anniversary show with Phil Kelsall, I have done a rethink (and some checking with the Sunderland Theatre Organ Preservation Society who now own the Compton) and I was actually present at both that and the previous year’s with Douglas Reeve.

Phil Kelsall played a medley from “ a forthcoming Summer release here at the Odeon Film Centre, ‘ANNIE’”. Sadly, the Odeon had closed before that film’s release and thus ‘Annie’ played at the ABC………

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