3 Newport Road,
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Stafford Cinema (Official)
Architects: Roland Satchwell
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Odeon Stafford, Astra Cinema, Apollo Cinema
This Odeon Theatre was one of the smallest built for the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd. It opened on 5th October 1936 with a live performance on the small stage by Jack Payne and his Band. The opening film for the remainder of the week was Charles Chaplin in "Modern Times".
The Odeon Theatre was located at the edge of the town centre, close to the independently operated Picture House. It had a good position on the corner of Newport Road and Bridge Street. The exterior was brick with windows edged in white stone and there were bands of white stonework sweeping horizontally around the corner façade of the building. Inside there were very tiny foyers and the auditorium was very wide at the rear and narrowed at the proscenium. Seating was provided for 535 in the stalls and 421 in the circle. The projection box was at the rear of the stalls, beneath the circle. Decoration was rather plain, with a couple of grilles on the side walls for air extraction and one in the main ceiling. Lighting was via a couple of coves in the ceiling which contained hidden lighting.
The Odeon was temporarily closed in February 1946 when it suffered damage by flooding. Apart from that it led an uneventful life.
It was disposed of by the Rank Organisation in July 1981 and was taken over by the Hutchinson Leisure Group who re-named it Astra Cinema. In December 1981 it was tripled with 435 seats in the former stalls and two mini cinemas in the former circle seating 170 and 168.
In 1988 it was taken over by Apollo Cinemas and re-named Apollo Cinema. The downstairs cinema was closed and became a bingo club for a couple of years, during which time the two mini cinemas in the former circle remained open. The bingo operation gave way to films again in 1990 and all three screens were again open, with seating for 305, 170 and 164. In January 2014 it was taken over by the Curzon Cinemas chain and renamed Stafford Cinema. It was closed on 18th December 2017 with “Star Wars:The Last Jedi”.
In April 2018 it was taken over by Anthony Harris of AJH Cinema and following minor renovations it reopened 26th May 2018. It was closed on 28th February 2019.
Further to the Comment below on 10th August 2019 by ‘cinemasamuk’, the cinema was subsequently taken over by Sam Lavington (Cinema Sam), who vowed to refurbish the building while preserving its history. He was quoted as saying “I’ve actually come out of retirement for this, I first heard about the cinema through the grapevine from other cinema owners. I love the place, it’s a beautiful building and I want to preserve its history by sympathetically redoing it, though its going to take time. It’s been so neglected but I’ve had the gas people in to measure up for new heating and in the meantime we have temporary heating in place that is much better than previous versions. We are repainting and have a new coffee bar, a counter on the first floor as well as trying to refresh the toilets. But Screen 3 will be closed permanently until its renovated. We will be run traditionally and not automatically”.
The Stafford Cinema duly re-opened on 25th October 2019 for the half-term school holidays with two screens showing children’s favourites. “The Addams Family” in one and “Abominable” (matinees) in the other, while, in a lovely touch which I hope was appreciated by the town’s film-lovers, the classic musical “Singin' in the Rain” played in the evening.
On 15th November 2019, Sam Lavington acquired a three year lease (expiring October 2022) from the landlord, Eros Properties Limited. Screen 3 remained closed for its extensive refurbishment. The building was then put up ‘For Sale’ by auction on 14th February 2020, with Francis Beatty, the council’s cabinet member for economic development & planning, remarking that “This is a prominent site in Stafford and we would like to see the cinema building utilised quickly - and it would be good to see a leisure offer sitting alongside any proposed residential scheme which will be of benefit to our community”. So clearly the council sees no future as a cinema! However the guide price at the auction, £350,00, was not achieved and the building was not sold.
Meanwhile Mr. Lavington, while retaining the Stafford Cinema name, has set up a business as the Cinema Heritage Trust, with the aim of purchasing the building for the people of Stafford. Unfortunately, he also admitted he will be unable to keep up the ongoing costs for much longer. The good news was announced in February 2021 that the freehold on the building had been purchased and Sam Lavington would continue to operate the cinema. It was announced on November 4, 2021 that the cinema would not be reopening.
In late December 2022 oit was announced that the building would be transformed into a live music center and renovations were underway to reopen one of the spaces by Easter, 2023.
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