Storyhouse Theatre & Cinema

Northgate Street and Hunter Street,
Chester, CH1 2HQ

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Storyhouse Theatre & Cinema

Viewing: Photo | Street View

One of the original Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres. The Odeon Chester was built in 1936 to the designs of Harry Weedon & Robert Bullivant. Like the Odeon York, the building of this theatre was beset by delays due to the proposed placement within historic city walls and the discovery of Roman archeological remains (some of which remained on display today in glass cases in the upper foyer). It opened on 3rd October 1936 with Ned Sparks in “Two’s Company”. Seating was proivided for 1,628; with 1,080 in the stalls and 548 in the circle.

The Odeon Theatre’s at Chester and York are both different from other Odeon’s being built at the time, in that they did not have the distinctive Odeon ‘Moderne’ look externally due to the ruling of the Royal Fine Arts Commission not allowing the usual cream tiled facia.

The exterior is executed in a plain brick with horizontal and vertical channeling. The signage (subject to a rather nasty debate between Chester City Council and Odeon regarding recently submitted plans to change it from the original rare signage to the new rebranded signage) was again different to the usual Odeon signs being rather larger and in "Trajan" lettering.

The interior was very much in the Moderne Streamline style with clean simple lines directing the eye to the screen. The slopping ceiling had concealed lighting in recessed bands towards the screen with a ribbed curved plunge onto the proscenium frame. At either side of the proscenium there were tear-shaped lit recesses.

The cinema was triplexed in 1976 with two cinemas being created in the rear stalls, each seating 122 and the circle was extended forward to seat 802. In March 1991, the circle screen was tripled giving seating capacities of two 151 seat screens and one 406 seat screen. The rear stalls screens remained the same.

The Odeon was closed on 14th June 2007. Since then there has been a groundswell of local support to reopen the building retaining entertainment use. It was purchased by Chester City Council in 2012 and has been altered to create an 800-seat live ‘blck-box’ theatre, a small 100-seat single screen cinema and a library within the building. Some of the original Streamline Moderne style features have been retained, but many have been lost. It re-opened as the Storyhouse Theatre & Cinema on 11th May 2017.

It is a Grade II Listed building.

Contributed by Steve Lynch

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

Davell
Davell on May 28, 2008 at 9:39 am

The first person to manage the Odeon, Chester was a Mr Harry Yorke, who had previously worked in Brighton. The opening was a grand affair with film star Douglas Fairbanks Junior in attendance.The cinema continued as a single screen until 1976.That year two more screens were added, built in the stalls area. A new projection box was built in the front stalls area to provide projection to the three screens. Number one still had two projectors with 6000ft spoolboxes.Projection from this box to the number one screen required an upward rake. Projection for screens two and three was from the side of the screens, by use of mirrors. Only one projector was used for each screen. Non-rewind systems were also in use. Odeon one used the balcony area and the original proscenium was still intact and used for Odeon one. In 1991 two more screens were installed in the building.These were created in the back circle.These new additions were called screens two and three.The downstairs cinemas,which had been one and two now became four and five.The original projection room,which had been closed when the building was converted to three screens, re-opened to provide projection to the new screens.Number one had top and side masking.The masking would open vertically, giving a large wide screen picture. For scope it would drop down and widen out.The scope, I thought wasn’t that impressive,but wide screen was great. A few months before closure a new screen was put into number one with side masking only, giving a better scope experience. Number one eventually went over to a single projector with a non-rewind system a few years back.

Davell
Davell on May 28, 2008 at 9:47 am

Regarding the above comment, it should read The downstairs cinemas, which had been two and three, not one and two as stated above.

smoothie
smoothie on June 19, 2008 at 12:10 am

Has this article been mentioned before? Extensive feature article by the local Chester preservation group;–

http://www.bwpics.co.uk/gallery/cinema6.html

Davell
Davell on June 19, 2008 at 4:16 am

I have written with Steve Howe the history of Chester cinemas under the name of David A Ellis, which can be found on the web.

Davell
Davell on June 19, 2008 at 10:45 am

Some of my above comments are in my article that was written for Steve Howe’s website based in Chester at http://www.bwpics.co.uk/gallery/cinema6.html However the above also contains information that is not on the above website.

Davell
Davell on September 30, 2008 at 9:10 am

The first Sunday screening was ‘East Side of Heaven’ on 3rd November 1940.

Ian
Ian on April 21, 2011 at 1:16 am

Still derelict, with no decision on its future, in April 2011:–

View link

curlew
curlew on March 13, 2012 at 7:26 am

The Odeon is the favoured location for Chesters new theatre and Arts Centre- the building has now been purchased by Chester city Council

Eric Evans
Eric Evans on March 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I’ve uploaded 3 photos all soon after closure, with one displaying a poigniant line from the Titanic.

PROJIE
PROJIE on August 1, 2012 at 8:27 am

The above picture of the auditorium was taken on the last night 14 June 2007 by David A Ellis.

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