18 Walliscote Road,
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Merlin Cinemas (Official)
Operated by: Merlin Cinemas
Architects: Thomas Cecil Howitt
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Odeon Theatre
Constructed on part of the site of the former Electric Theatre/Premier Cinema (it has its own page on Cinema Treasures.). The Odeon Theatre was opened on 25th May 1935 with Jack Buchanan in “Brewster’s Millions”. Built as one of the original Odeon Theatres in the then emerging Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres circuit, it was built on a prime corner street position in this sea-side town and was the first of several Odeon Theatre’s to be designed by architect T. Cecil Howitt.
The exterior is dominated by a squared tower that has on its top, a flat slab that is supported on a dozen short rounded columns. The entire facade is covered in cream faience tiles.
Inside the auditorium was rather clean cut with no fancy grille work over the organ chambers. Lighting was concealed in troughs that ran across the ceiling and in three back-lit recesses that surrounded the proscenium opening. Seating was provided for 1,807; 1,174 in the stalls and 633 in the circle.
It was one of only nine of the original Odeon Theatres to be equipped with a theatre organ, in this case it was a Compton 3Manual/6Ranks (with Solo Cello) with an illuminated console and was opened by organist Alfred Richards.
The Odeon was tripled from 23rd December 1973 in the usual configuration of keeping the main circle area as the main screen and dividing the rear stalls into two smaller screens. A fourth screen was constructed in the former front stalls area which opened in June 1991.
The Compton organ was still played at special concerts and could be heard and viewed from the former circle screen. It remained open as a four-screen cinema (one of only a few of the original Odeon circuit theatres still screening films) and served the town residents and the visitors that come for a holiday at the sea-side. Current seating capacities given in 2008 are; 552, 104, 122 and 275. The Odeon was closed on 5th June 2023. A final concert on the Compton organ was held on Sunday 21st May at 2pm with organist Michael Wooldridge.
In July 2023 it was announced that the building had been purchased by the Merlin Cinemas chain and would reopen as the Plaza Cinema.
The Odeon has been a Grade II Listed building from 21st August 1986.
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