Odeon Haymarket

Haymarket & St. James's Market,
London, SW1Y 4SD

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Odeon Haymarket

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The former Gaumont Haymarket was completely gutted and most of the space turned into offices, but a basement cinema was included in the rebuild, which opened on June 4, 1962 as the Odeon Haymarket. The opening film was an exclusive run of of Anthony Quinn in “Barabbas”, which was presented in 70mm and ran for over six months.

Seating 600 on a stadium plan, the cinema was designed by architect Leslie C. Norton. It suffered from having a fairly obscure corner entrance (facing away from Coventry Street), but was very comfortable and distributors would often hold a film over to open it here on an exclusive run. On 30th March 1967 the British Premiere of “A Man for All Seasons” was held and began a long run.

The side walls sloped in at an angle of about 10 degrees, hung with panels of Thai silk, and the ceiling had a honeycomb pattern of holes.

The Odeon closed on 14th January 1999 for ‘renovation’. In October 1999 ‘Time Out’ magazine listed the Odeon Haymarket playing the Pedro Almodovar directed film “All About My Mother”. A new style ‘Odeon’ sign (one of the first) was placed on the front of the building. The Odeon was closed in January 2000, and the sign was later removed. After laying empty for several years, work began on stripping out the building. Work was halted for a long period of time when a huge amount of asbestos materials were found. Apparently it was gutted back to the bare brick walls and there were plans put forward in 2007 to open it as a lap-dancing club, but this never happened. The building remains boarded up.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

Ian on January 1, 2008 at 9:06 am

Two further exterior views from 1989 here:–

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Edd on May 11, 2008 at 6:08 am

Hi Fred,
The use of the word rayne was a play on words

As many people know, Henry Rayne was a notable cinema engineer of the 1920’s and 30’s

He was most noted for his standardisation of procedures and equipment in British cinema projection rooms

Bill Gibb maintained many of these high standards at the Odeon Haymarket.

After Bill left the Odeon, to continue his work with Dickie Attenborough, we ran the projection department without a chief for approximately 6 months.

It was hard; however we persevered, and if anything, were able to maintain a high level of showmanship.

By early 1988 a new generation of management had taken over.
They were more interested in their ego than quality and presentation.

Less skilled projection staff were employed due to ignorant management (Apparently the new chief had only recently started work for Rank Cinemas, after loosing his job as a bus driver in Liverpool) Am I correct Fred?

Quality showmanship vanished as the standards were dropped to the level of the new chief and his staff.

This in turn led to a loss of patronage, followed by product and budget, resulting in the building becoming run down.

The rest is history!!!


scott99 on October 15, 2008 at 6:24 pm

I worked at this place in the late eighties in the box office, which was pretty shabby. Rank had a policy of putting certain films on exclusive presentation there, on my first day When Harry met Sally sold out 5 presentations on a single saturday. Rank underestimated the power of Meg Ryan faking and orgasm, and it’s effect on the zeitgeist….The box office was dead shabby, and while the auditorium looked pretty, I remember the seats were made of really itchy material. They also had a problem with fruit flies, due to crates of empty tomato juice bottles from the bar. That summer the air conditioning broke down, but still they squeezed 500 people underground on a sweltering August evening. Loads of people complained and got refunds. I am not suprised it closed down. But it did have a lot of character, and you will be hard pressed to find a cinema like it these days.

Eric Evans
Eric Evans on January 29, 2010 at 10:05 am

I saw a film there when I when the air conditioning was broken down,we saw the sign informing the patrons of the problem,we should have heeded it. I liked the cinema very much but we were just unlucky to have visited it at this time.

I’ve recently retired as chief projectionist in my hometown in North Wales,and having read edd’s remark that it was hard to work without a chief for six months. I started at the age of 15,and when the former chief became the manager I was on my own for many years,including running two machines (change-overs and all that)with carbon arcs,and I like to think I was very particular with the standard of presentation,and remember in a smallish town where most people know each other if only by sight,you had to face them in the street if you had suffered a technical fault the previous evening.

People could not understand how I could be called the chief if I was working on my own with no one below me.I was occasionally releived by the manager so I could go & see the local football team,to think there were three of us up in the box when I started.

Lodgesound on July 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Hi Edd;

Remember me? I recently removed the projectors from Lord Attenborough’s house as he donated them to the BFI where they will be installed along with their sound equipment at the NFA……

Even as I was starting the job I could see all the trademarks of a Bill Gibb installation…….funny how my life with regard to cinemas has come full circle in some ways….

glyn_lewis on July 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

Hello, Ranwell. The Odeon Haymarket closed January 2000. And “Regeneration” opened 21 11 97, though it may have played into 1998. Not specified above, the cinema opened as the Capitol in 1927. In ‘29 it was the showcase venue for Hitchcock’s “Blackmail” with sound! And in '41 the first run of “Citizen Kane”.

SethLewis on July 24, 2013 at 1:48 pm

One of the few cinemas I have ever been turned away from twice for technical difficulties – a flood once on a Sunday night for Glengarry Glen Ross and on another occasion for Ramblin Rose…for a class cinema they had a hard time maintaining it…still saw A Private Function on first run exclusive here,Bob Roberts, Glengarry, Reversal of Fortune, Woody Allen’s Alice, The X Files day dating with Leicester Sq

theonlysbf on January 21, 2014 at 5:18 am

I worked here for Bill Gibbs in the early 1980s as we were installing new lighting and sound equipment, the box was a bloody mess with Bill always tinkering. We ran a cleaned version of fantasia in 35mm, magnetic 4 track, for god knows how long mainly to empty houses, Disney persisted. There were 3 vic 10’s with carbon arcs I think we were the last in the west end to be running them to real skill to keep the light right. I remember Andy who went off to Germany, Ron who went over to Leicester Square theatre, and George who went off to be a bus driver but kept coming back on his day off. I was just 20 and it interfered with my social life I packed it all in and got a proper job, but it does bring back fond memories if you remember drop me a line

Ian on June 5, 2016 at 2:38 am

Two photos of the gutted auditorium taken in 2015 when the space was being used as a temporary canteen. Interestingly there seems to be quite a bit of plasterwork remaining from the previous Gaumont – possibly from a corridor, possibly the auditorium, it is a bit difficult to place!



Ian on June 5, 2016 at 2:54 am

Actually looking at photos, could this plasterwork be from the even earlier Capitol Cinema (1925)? The 1937 Gaumont was a bit more streamlined. Perhaps the back of the boxes?

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