Odeon Walsall

1 The Bridge,
Walsall, WS1 1PY

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Gaumont Cinema Walsall

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The Picture House in Lower Bridge Street, Walsall opened in July 1920 with a showing of "Woman" starring Florence Billings. It was a project of the Associated Provincial Picture House chain, and was designed by London based architects Robert Atkinson and George Alexander, who had designed their Queens Picture House in Wolverhampton. On the 1st September 1923 the Picture House was destroyed by a fire.

It’s owners, APPH/Provincial Cinematograph Theatres(PCT) rebuilt the Picture House to the designs of architectural firm Percy Lindsey Browne & Glover. It re-opened on 26th December 1924.

The Picture House had the very first Wurlitzer cinema organ to be installed in the United Kingdom. The 2Manual/6Ranks instrument was opened on 26th January 1925 by organist Jack Courtnay. The exterior of the building was faced in white tiles manufactured by the Hathern Station Brick & Terra Cotta Company. The foyer was decorated in a Tudor style, with a real coal burning fireplace. Inside the auditorium there were slips on each side of the balcony, leading to exits. The cinema had a very popular cafe/restaurant, which remained open thoughout its life.

In February 1929 PCT were taken over by Gaumont, but the Picture House wasn’t renamed Gaumont until 1948.

Later it became part of the Rank Organisation and was re-named Odeon from 22nd October 1965. The auditorium and foyers were ‘modernised’ in 1967, destroying the charming ambience of the cinema. On 2nd March 1971, it was again destroyed by fire in an arson attack. The remains of the frontage was boarded up, which was how it remained for several years before being sold and re-developed.

A Tesco Metro supermarket was built on the site. This had closed by February 2013. In 2016 it was a Co-Op Supermarket.

Contributed by Glen Twamley

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm

A vintage photograph of the Picture House, and photographs of the first ever Wurlitzer organ to be installed in the UK, which is now installed in the Congregational Church, Beer, Devon:

Mike_Blakemore on August 30, 2011 at 11:38 am

Hmm. Correction. The fire was not caused by a disgruntled former projectionist… FACT.. it was disgruntled former vegatable delivery man that set fire to a number of catering establishments at that time. I found this a sad time.. even though I was Assitant Manager of the Local ABC Cinema.. at the time.

Mike_Blakemore on July 30, 2012 at 7:37 am

I have now loaded a picture of the Fanastic Foyer.. Before being wrecked by the **** modernisation by Moorebird Ltd., I have a picture of the Interior, which I still have not found..

Mike_Blakemore on February 24, 2013 at 6:54 am

The Tesco Supermarket is closed.. and awaiting the Co-operative Supermarket and Primark to move on to the site

Mike_Blakemore on March 29, 2016 at 2:44 pm

The Co-operative Supermarket is now open.

terry on March 30, 2016 at 12:15 pm

See auditorium photo of Gaumont/Havelock Sunderland and note the similarities. Percy Lindsey B rowne & Glover I assume were the forerunners of Percy L Browne & Son who were assigned by ABC to design most of their theatres in the Tyne Tees Region (WR Glen was obviously too busy).

Mike_Blakemore on March 30, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Terry Ken Roe and I are doing research on this problem funny enough I believe the Sunderland Theatre was done By George Alexander. When ABC Built Cinemas they employed a more local Architect to supervise stages of construction as it is required by Law.. Which probably why the name has appeared.. Glen’s assistant C. Jack Foster was the Ex PCT Architect by the way So that is how the connection was made.. Take a Look at the Queens Cinema Wolverhampton you see the design repeated again..

terry on March 30, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Well, I did not know that CJ Foster came from PCT but this has made me wonder about a story my old friend and sparring partner, George Skelton (now in that Licensed Variety Theatre in the Sky) told me years ago.

Georges’s second theatre as a young Manager was Doncaster Picture House (this was after Hippodrome Nuneaton and prior to Regal Rochdale) and, aware of the building’s limitations by this time (early CinemaScope days), ABC were approached by the owners of the town’s largest cinema, the Ritz who were proposing to sell.

ABC sent CJ Foster to survey the place and he said that there was a huge crack down a side elevation and therefore did not recommend purchase. George said that his instinct would have been to “cement the bloody crack up” but the decision was made and, of course, who ended up with the Ritz?…..Rank and it became the Odeon whilst ABC soldiered on with the PictureHouse for years afterwards before finally opening the new ABC in 1967.

Mike_Blakemore on March 30, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Terry. The Hippodrome Nuneaton was ABC’s first Theatre in the Town. Which was in Partners ship with Leon Salberg and Sidney Clift… The Ritz was owned and built by Union Cinemas which was part of the take over by ABC… I used to do relief Management at the Ritz when I was a Lad :o)

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