Odeon Newcastle upon Tyne

Pilgrim Street,
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6QE

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Odeon Screen 1

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One of seven Paramount Theatre’s built by the American owned Paramount Theatres Ltd., in cities in the United Kingdom (the others were in Birmingham which is still open as Odeon), Manchester, Glasgow and Leeds which have now closed and Liverpool & London’s Tottenham Court Road, which have been demolished).

The Paramount Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne opened September 7, 1931 and was a large and lavish addition to the city’s cinema scene. Designed by Frank T. Verity and Samuel Beverley, it bears a strong similarity to the Paramount Theatre at Aurora, Illinois – Charles M. Fox is believed to have been the interior designer of both.

Opulent in the extreme, the decor included "pilasters which flower into glass illumination fittings", silk panels, over 500 motives and paintings applied directly to the walls over a two month period, sequin-spangled drapery, and a series of statues.

There was a full (and frequently used) 30ft deep stage behind the 54ft proscenium. A Wurlitzer 3Manual/19Ranks theatre organ on a lift rose up to the left of the stage. In the basement was a restaurant.

The 6-storey exterior was finished largely in brick dressed with Portland stone. A fancy, American style marquee ran across the width of the Pilgrim Street frontage with a vast vertical "Paramount" sign in the centre of the building the height of three floors.

On November 27, 1939 all the Paramount theaters were sold to Odeon and the Newcastle theatre was renamed in 1940.

Cinemascope was fitted in 1954 prior to "The Robe" – the auditorium was modernized and the decor simplified but much of the original still remained. Ten years later the Wurlitzer organ was removed.

A plan to demolish and redevelop the site in 1972 came to nothing and in 1975 the venue was tripled by extending forward the circle to create a 1,228 seat Screen 1, with 158 & 250 seat screens 2 & 3 below the circle. Screen 4 was added 1980 on the former stage – it has 361 seats.

Good years followed – the cinema survived an AMC multiplex opening in 1987 and a major refurbishment was carried out (costing £750,000).

In 1999 the Odeon was Grade II Listed with English Heritage stating "[it is] The best surviving Paramount cinema in Britain, with well composed facade and rich interior with Lalique glass fittings"

In 2001 Odeon Theatres Ltd. decided to build a new multiplex in the city centre and successfully applied to have the cinema de-Listed to maximise its site value for redevelopment.

It closed in 2002 and stands empty and unused.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 29 comments)

DLambert on January 22, 2010 at 10:55 am

3Dfan posted: “http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/todays-evening-chronicle/2010/01/22/curtain-to-fall-on-famous-old-city-buildings-72703-25656367/”

Crikey, thats even worse news than the inside of the Odeon, although the Bank Of England building is a mess. The outside of the Odeon isn’t anything amazing (does still have those Paramout logos at the top corners of course) but it could be put to use. Newcastle Council have always had this lack of regard for great buildings in the City.

jbn6773 on June 22, 2010 at 2:53 pm

latest news

“It is with some sadness that we have to report that our long running campaign to save the former Odeon cinema in Pilgrim Street has now come to an unsatisfactory end. Brookfield, the current owners of the East Pilgrim Street development site invited Geoffrey Purves and John Matthews along with John Burns of Mackellar architects to have a look at the interior on Tuesday 25th of May. The building has been stripped of anything of value, and more importantly the specific fixtures and fittings which were so crucial in English Heritages original listing decision in 2000. We believe that Cinven, the owners at the time, who along with the Rank Organisation successfully appealed to the DCMS to controversially de-list the former Grade II listed Odeon, took the opportunity at that time to ensure that nothing remained worth listing. We understand from Brookfield that they do have some items “in storage” but as yet they haven’t indicated what they themselves have removed or indeed the condition of the interior when they themselves took possession. The elegant and elaborately worked ornamental balustrades manufactured by local architectural metalworkers M Aynsley and Company of Heber Street which many members will remember leading up to the foyers from the main Pilgrim Street entrance have been ripped out leaving gaping holes in the concrete stairs. Shadows on the walls are all that remain of the decorative lighting sconces and other original fittings.

Geoffrey and John visited the former screen 2 and 3 on the ground floor, now with their separating wall removed, (probably because of the asbestos insulation used in the 70’s conversion) and now returned back a single space as it was when first opened, then upstairs to screen 1, the largest which still could seat over 1000 patrons at the time of closure in 2002. Some of the original ornate metal side cheeks which graced the row ends were stacked awaiting removal along with other remnant of the auditorium seating. The highly ornate decorative fixtures above the lighting columns which were also original fittings when the cinema was opened in 1931 by Paramount have all been removed. The last part of the tour was at the top of the building in the projection room where, apart from some electrical control units, nothing remains.

It seems that anything which could be taken has been taken, which of course as owners of the building at the time Cinven were perfectly entitled to do. However the fact that the Society had submitted a document to the DCMS providing additional information to substantiate our request for them to return the Odeon’s Grade II listed status, and it was therefore still “under consideration” we still feel it was a cynical act of wanton destruction by the owners. It took the DCMS seven years to respond to this report despite numerous letters and telephone calls from the Society as each time we were told “no decision has yet been made”.

The Society believes that the DCMS’s record in this sad affair has been lamentable and wish to see the new Government resurrect the proposed Heritage Bill (quietly dropped by the Labour Government a year or so ago) which would remove the DCMS (and its transient Ministers) from the equation and allow English Heritage to be the final arbiter in listing and delisting decisions. We are well aware that the Minister at the DCMS at the time was heavily lobbied by the previous owners Rank and venture capitalists Cinven (the new owners of the Odeon and ABC cinema and theatre estates), (including a former Government Heritage Minister) and rather than accepting two separate reports from English Heritage recommending the Odeon’s protection and Grade II listing, she preferred to accept a professionally commissioned report from the owners on appeal. Cinven went on to sell off the Odeon /ABC to other cinema chains but sold the most valuable sites on to developers (including the Newcastle site) which is why they lobbied strongly to get listed status removed.

The Society’s concern is that if this can happen to the Odeon, which at the time considering its age was remarkably intact and certainly worthy of listing, other buildings are therefore potentially at risk. As owners (and councils) see no commercial advantage in retention, other buildings which currently have listed building protection could be at risk if they stand in the way of new development. They could have their listed status challenged and subsequently removed in the same way as the Odeon on appeal to the DCMS. In this way we could loose other important fine examples of art décor 20th century architecture on the Pilgrim Street site Carliol House and the Magistrates Court, a group of buildings which including the Odeon are arguably as important historically to the architectural heritage of Newcastle as the much valued Grainger Town.

To end on a more positive note, Brookfield have provisionally agreed an offer of financial support to capture all of the available information, be it photographic, written or spoken memories relating to the Paramount/Odeon over it’s 80 year lifespan; and to assist in the creation of an exhibition somewhere in the city, possibly leading to finding a permanent home for any memorabilia we can obtain from former employees and members of the public. We are certainly in agreement with Brookfield that IF the building must be lost to future generations, its sad demise MUST be recorded in a professional and complete manner. We have lost too many buildings in the past without proper studies being carried out. It is the least this fine historic building deserves. The Northumberland and Newcastle Society have offered our assistance in this initiative.

A more complete history of the Societies campaign to “ Preserve the Paramount” will be complied by John Matthews who was Chair of the Tyneside Committee at the time of the Odeon’s de-listing and will be posted along with his series of black and white images of the Paramount in 1931 in the near future.”

some interior photos taken on 25th May can be seen here:
View link

Ian on August 19, 2010 at 1:07 am

Some more photo’s of the Odeon in it’s current sad state (August 2010) can be seen here. Some more of the main screen will follow in a few days.



Screen 3:

Seat standard:

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 28, 2010 at 4:12 am

Vintage photographs of the Paramount/Odeon, and its Wurlitzer organ console:

William Mewes
William Mewes on April 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Here is a rather depresing photo taken from the upper level of a Number 21 Bus in April 2011.

View link

The_Tower_Bridge_Fox_1 on March 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm

This is a Horror story! The exterior of the building is just as worth saving as the interior, You just have to look at sites where they already completely demolished cinemas without retaining any original features. (The Gosforth Royalty. The Queen theatre)

To see just how vacuous the these sites now are. Gosforth still looks like it has a front tooth removed, And the tacky pastiche were the queens theatre stood is urban anti mater.

Much better to sees original features retained even if its not still used as a cinema

In London there are plenty examples of converted cinema , Witherspoon pub housed in a cinema , There is even an apartment store housed in inside a cinema with stalls circle screen and even the original organ retained.

But of course a cinema would be even better.

orence on October 30, 2014 at 5:11 am

Hi. I wondered if any of you could help me out. I am wanting to get access to the inside of the Odeon. Does anyone know who to contact in order to get permission? Many thanks.

project on October 19, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Demolition is set to start on 1st November 2016. When the Odeon was tripled in 1975 it was a drop wall conversion. The two mini cinemas (cinema 2 & 3) were in the back stalls with a wall built down from underneath the front of the circle. This left the original circle, front stalls and original proscenium untouched and this became cinema 1. When the Odeon became four screens the circle was extended forward and a new proscenium was built in front of the old one, this remained as cinema 1. Cinema 4 was what was left of the old front stalls at ground floor level.

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