Odeon Oxford, Magdalen Street

Magdalen Street,
Oxford, OX1 3AE

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Odeon Oxford Magdalen Street

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The Oxford ‘Super’ Cinema was built for and intitially operated by The Oxford Cinematograph Theatre Co. It opened on 1st January 1924 with Rudolph Valentino in "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". It has a very small entrance on Magdalen Street which was originally surrounded by marble. Above the entrance was a bronze illuminated fascia sign with the name ‘The Oxford’. Inside the main lounge, decorations were in a French Renaissance style. The auditorium had seating arranged for 1,300; 950 in the stalls and 350 in the circle. There were two large paintings on the side-walls of the auditorium, one depicting ‘Modern Sport’ and the other ‘Early Morning’, both were the work of artist G. Rushton. The cinema was equipped with a 2Manual/6Rank Electric ‘Organestra’ manufactured by the Spurdon Rutt company which was opened by Stanley Hemery. It was one of only three of these instruments ever made. There was also a ‘high class’ cafe for the convenience of patrons.

On 6th January 1930 it became the first cinema in Oxford to screen talking pictures, the first here was "The Broadway Melody" starring Charles King. The Oxford ‘Super’ Cinema was taken over by the Union Cinemas chain in 1931 and re-named Super Cinema. In 1935-1936 the proscenium was re-built and the stage extended over the orchestra pit. Seating was reduced to 1,251.

In October 1937 Union Cinemas were taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) and they operated it for many years. It was closed in July 1971 for a re-furbishment, new seats and re-decoration etc and re-opened later that month as the ABC Magdalen Street with 853 luxury seats, using the stalls area only.

Around 1986 it was taken over by the Cannon Group and re-named Cannon, later by MGM and re-named MGM, and then taken back by ABC in a management buy-out. Odeon Cinemas took over in 2000 and the name has now changed to Odeon. The former cafe has now been converted into a second screen seating 62 and there are 652 seats in the main auditorium, using stalls and circle. In May 2010, new seats were installed and the cinema was given a renovation.

The Odeon is a Grade II Listed building.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

jrhine
jrhine on January 9, 2008 at 12:32 am

About the organ; Spurdon Rutt, who also built church organs, built only three theater organs. One was parted out, one is in the hands of a private owner. and the only 3 manual instrument (3/6 from the from the Regal, Highams Park, London) is located at the St. Alban’s Organ Theater along with the ex Empire(Granada), Edmonton, London 3/10 Wurlitzer. The Rutt has an incredibly mellow and beautiful sound.

Ian
Ian on January 9, 2008 at 7:58 am

Three photos of the Odeon Oxford in its ABC days here:–

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Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 9, 2008 at 11:27 am

According to the book ‘Early Oxford Picture Palaces’ by Paul J. Marriot (Published 1978):
‘After 1932, when Mr Barraclough was the organist, it seems never to have been played again. However in 1965 the old organ was rediscovered housed in a concrete chamber behind the screen, remarkably intact.’

I wonder what happened to to it?

jeremyb
jeremyb on February 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm

It doesn’t look like they have restored the paintings each side of the auditorium, they still appear to be curtained over. The CTA had some input into the restoration of the foyer. In answer to a query long ago, the organ is in a private house near Woking, Surery, UK.

sisu
sisu on December 21, 2013 at 6:01 pm

The projection room was accessed up a very narrow, extremely raked stairwell, culminating out onto the roof, then walk over the ventilation system into a very small room, cold.

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