Odeon Darlington

220 Northgate,
Darlington, DL1 1RB

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Front Stalls

The 1885 built Theatre Royal (architect Charles J. Phipps) was operating as a cinema when it closed in 1936. It was being operated by John Maxwell’s company Associated British Cinemas(ABC) and they employed the architectural firm Percy Brown, Son & Harding to build a new super cinema. The building was demolished apart from the side walls of the old theatre which were retained, the facade and stage end were new.

It opened as the Regal Cinema on 31st January 1938 with Spencer Tracey in "Captains Courageous". The seating capacity was for 1,620 in stalls and circle levels. There was no provision provided for an organ.

It was re-named ABC in 1961 and closed in May 1977 for conversion to a triple screen cinema. The ABC re-opened 16th June 1977 with screen 1 in the former circle seating 590 and screens 2 & 3 in the former stalls seating 220 and 149.

It was taken over by the Cannon Group and re-named Cannon in the mid-1980’s, then it became the MGM and later reverted back to the ABC name. It is currently operated by Odeon Cinemas. However there is concern that a new multiplex cinema is planned by Vue Cinemas and this could lead to closure of the Odeon. Current (2008) seating capacities in the screens are; 550, 181 and 123.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

terry on May 4, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Union Cinemas, who briefly operated the Majestic prior to its purchase by Oscar Deutsch, were taken over by Odeon’s rival company, ABC. Union had plans to open a brand new Ritz Cinema in Darlington but this failed to materialise. A possible reason for this could have been that ABC (who already had the Regal Northgate) were able to cancel the project upon their acquisition of Union. Had it come to fruition and had, in turn, the Majestic been a Union Cinemas outlet upon takeover by ABC then that company would have had the three largest and most modern cinemas in Darlington and it is therefore debatable as to which of those three would have been retained.

terry on May 4, 2014 at 7:48 pm

The Odeon, Bondgate, Darlington,was going to become a drop wall triple cinema – IE the original circle looking onto the original proscenium as screen 1 and two mini cinemas in the underhang of the circle (IE in the rear stalls).

A problem arose whereby there would be insufficient clearance (owing to the positioning of the main supporting girder)for the projection from port to screen in the two ‘minis’. The conversion was therefore cancelled.

The ABC(Regal)Northgate had been conspicuous by its absence from a list of proposed conversions of ABC Theatres published in 1976 from which one could deduce that the writing was on the wall for that venue. However, as soon as it became known about the problem with the Odeon (Majestic), the ABC was not only added to that list but was rushed ahead in the queue and was converted in very much the same manner which had been intended for the Odeon (Majestic).

So, had the best laid plans of mice and men gone ahead the Odeon (Majestic) would have seen the ABC off instead of vice versa and, I dare say, would eventually have been further sub divided like most surviving Odeons.

Anyway, it seems very likely that the Vue Complex is finally going to go ahead in Darlington and that surely will spell the end for the Regal/ABC/Cannon/ABC/Odeon, Northgate.

lornaliz on December 31, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Does anyone know whether the Odeon in Darlington showed cinerama films?

terry on July 3, 2015 at 3:46 pm

This theatre was never equipped to show Cinerama (or Todd AO/70mm) and the nearest venue to present films in 70mm format was the ABC (former Elite) Middlesbough; this was the case from its modernisation in 1964 until tripling in 1974 when the large screen and the 70mm equipment were removed. The new Odeon Stockton was also thus equipped from its opening in 1968 until closure in 1981.

The nearest Cinerama was the Queens Newcastle although the ‘3 strip’ format lasted only very briefly before 70mm was adopted and blown up onto the Cinerama screen. Other 70mm venues were the Essoldo Newcastle (later ABC) and the Pavilion Newcastle which generally played the product deemed either not good enough for the Queens or which the latter was unable to play owing to long term commitments as was the case with ‘The Sound Of Music’ which played there for nearly three years.

Re this venue an opening photo of the (now disused) Front Stalls has been uploaded.

terry on October 22, 2015 at 6:56 pm

A very well meaning contributor to the site queried one of the photos in the relevant section and I have given a definitive, but respectful, reply.

terry on May 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm

1937 shot of Theatre Royal (prior to reconstruction as ABC Regal) uploaded

terry on May 13, 2016 at 3:47 pm

A well meaning contributor has uploaded 2 photos of the Odeon (Gaumont) Doncaster. The cladding at the front is similar to that on the Fronts of House of the original Odeon Darlington and the replacement Odeon Stockton.

Tony Newman
Tony Newman on October 8, 2016 at 10:38 am

Well the new VUE has opened in the town and I am surprised to say that unusually the ODEON is still open and it seems they maybe making a fight of it. They have dropped the ticket price to £3 all shows all days. lets hope this town is big enough for both of them.

terry on August 26, 2017 at 11:44 am

If ever a cinema had nine lives it is that one……….

terry on January 19, 2019 at 4:39 pm

Entertainments pages with all Darlington cinemas for the years 1952 and 1961 uploaded (together with my comments and observations)to the photos section…..

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