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Like Chester, the historic town of York proved problematic for Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain in 1937, when they wanted to open a cinema. The City Council insisted that it was to be located outside the city walls and that it did not look like an Odeon with typical faiance tiling. Accordingly Robert Bullivant, of the Harry Weedon architectural practice, came up with a more refined brick scheme – which still managed to look like an Odeon. It opened February 1, 1937 with Roland Young in “The Man Who Could Work Miracles”.
Seating 1,484 in stalls and balcony levels it proved successful and in 1972 was tripled. This was not a standard scheme as at York the circle was extended forward to form a stadium style 820 seater – very attractively (original decor was retained). There were then two 111 seat minis under the former balcony.
In 1981, the Odeon was designated a Grade II Listed building by English Heritage.
Recent troubles began when Odeon Theatres wanted to re-brand the cinema with new signage, removing the original ‘ODEON’ signs from the Grade II Listed building. But the local Council insisted that everything should remain intact. This led to threats by Odeon Theatres to close down, despite good attendances. The reality of closure came on 31st August 2006.
In June 2007, the building was purchased by Reel Cinemas, who refurbished the cinema, restoring many original features. The cinema re-opened as the Reel Cinema on 19th June 2009, with a black tie gala and the appropriately named film “Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen” showing on the main 880 seat screen upstairs.
In early 2010, a 40-seat screen 4 was opened in former unused office space, and later in 2010, a 35-seat screen 5 opened in former retail space.
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