Odeon Birmingham

139 New Street,
Birmingham, B2 4NU

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The Paramount Theatre opened on 4th September 1937 with Errol Flynn in “Charge of the Light Brigade”. It was one of seven Paramount Theatres built in major UK cities by the American owned Paramount Theatres chain; Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow and London (Tottenham Court Road) were the others. The original seating capacity was for 2,439 with 1,517 in the stalls and 922 in the circle. It was equipped with a Compton 4Manual/10Rank theatre organ which was opened by Al Bollington. The Paramount Theatre had a large stage, dressing rooms and a cafe/restaurant.

On 25th August 1942, it was sold to Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. and it was re-named Odeon on 29th November 1942. In 1965 it was closed for a period while major modernisation was carried out and re-opened on 24th June 1965. The Odeon was used for many live shows during this period of time, including appearances by The Beatles.

On 26th May 1988 the Odeon was closed for conversion into a six screen cinema, which re-opened in August 1988. Unfortunately, the Compton organ, which had still been used for concerts, was dismantled and sold. In 1991 two additional screens were opened in the former restaurant area and a former bar in the basement.

The cinema used to have a very ornate auditorium until it was altered. Now it is all very plain, including the foyer entrance. The last refurbishment was carried out in 1998 when an eighth screen was added. In 2013, it is the only one of the seven original U.K. Paramount Theatres still operating as a cinema.

Contributed by DEREK L.HUNT, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 49 comments)

raymondskid
raymondskid on April 19, 2013 at 3:49 pm

One of my memories is of when father sent me on an errand to Felton Rapley, the organist at the Gaumont in 1938. I caught a glimpse of the screen. It was a scene from “Snow white and the seven dwarfs”. Christmas ‘38 was a good time. “If I were King” with Ronald Colman was playing at the Paramount. (Fiction of Francois Villon, the knave poet, taking King Louis XI’s place for a day during a war with Burgundy. Came out as a musical in '56 as the “Vagabond King”.)

raymondskid
raymondskid on June 4, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I remember that September 1937 when my father told us of his appointment as organist at the Theatre. There were some great times then: many stage shows between pictures.(Obviously I am a very senior citizen) One of them, just before Christmas, 1939, featured Robert Ashley, baritone, singing “Moon Love”. an adaptation of Tchaikowski’s Fifth Symphony, 2nd movement. There were also Robert and Murray Dickie,tenor, 16 years old, who with their mother stayed with us; both of the boys performed in the show and later became well known opera soloists. William Pethers' orchestra played “Somewhere over the rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz,and “Small Hotel”. My principal part(as actually a Paramount employee)was in a finale. I was dressed in my O.T.C. uniform, representing the Army.The two other services appeared one on each side so that we formed a human pyramid.

Very Creative Days.
                      Regards.
                        S.A.
                  
damiandale
damiandale on November 21, 2013 at 3:40 pm

very interesting reading these comments. I worked at the Odeon from 1974 – 1988 as a projectionist/ stage tech until they stopped live shows. Then I moved over to the Alex theatre for a while. I know the Odeon inside out and run a facebook memorial page to the place. Anything related to it from 1937 to 1988. Im not so interested in the place after the live shows stopped and I left. I have been back and looked around and was shocked to see the dilapidated state it’s been let go to. Sad really. We were a team of 5 and looked after everything in that place. I am always on the look out for any memorabilia or memories linked to the Paramount/Odeon and have collected a few interesting items over the years. Here is my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/odeon.birmingham/

I would be happy if anyone wants to join the group and add to the memories.

damiandale
damiandale on April 11, 2014 at 8:36 am

to Stan Austin, your Paramount stories are great, thank you. I would absolutely love to see any photo’s you have related to the Paramount/Odeon. I am trying to compile as much info on the place as possible for future records as no one else seems to be doing that. My email address is: and I would love to hear more information & stories about the running of the Paramount including photographs you would like to share. Kind regards, Dale M (ex.Odeon New St)

damiandale
damiandale on April 11, 2014 at 8:46 am

https://www.facebook.com/groups/odeon.birmingham/

please check out my facebook group dedicted to Paramount/Odeon Birmingham.

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on April 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Hmm. Just a Thought.. an odd piece of Trivia. The Freehold of the Odeon New Street is owned by Oscar Deutsch’s old school “King Edward Grammar”

raymondskid
raymondskid on September 29, 2014 at 6:04 pm

I couldn’t scan the photos in our old Mac OS X computer so I made copies and brought them to Portland, Oregon. Can’t write much now, sight is poor. Will try to scan and transmit from here. Had a time forgetting password and getting back in.

Regards to all, S.A., son of Arthur Raymond,organist 1937-44

raymondskid
raymondskid on October 20, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Looks like Arthur Raymond (real name Cecil Austin)in the photo not shown here of Manager Holderness and the whole staff(about 1943-4) sitting on one side right in the front among the usherettes. He was only five feet tall.

SA.

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on October 20, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Leslie Holderness ended up a Supervisors for the Clifton Cinema Circuit.. There is a picture of him on the Regal Wolverhampton listing (First Left)

raymondskid
raymondskid on October 20, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Thanks. Another anecdote: An Associate of the Royal College of Organists criticized Raymond’s playing to Leslie Holderness. My father entertained the visitor to tea in the theatre cafe.Must ave been 1941 or so. Nevertheless he did not replace him. In ‘38 the BBC wanted to wire the Paramount for organ broadcasts. However, like the artist he was, Arthur declined the offer until remuneration was offered. It wasn’t; so the broadcasts never aired.

SA

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