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The Laz Word....from Larry Neild

Last picture show as Odeon - leading light of London Road - finally flickers into darkness

Published on September 29th 2008.


The Laz Word....from Larry Neild

THE £12m 14-screen Odeon opens its doors on Wednesday, in the heart of Grosvenor’s Paradise Street redevelopment, Liverpool One.

While it will give the city centre a new trendy multiplex, it will be Paradise Lost for the very last of the city centre’s magical picture palaces.

The final curtain will come down this Tuesday (Sep 30) at the Odeon in London Road.

The new Odeon will have state-of-the-art surround-sound and the best in cinemagoing comfort, but the closure of the London Road landmark, which started life in 1934 as the Paramount, will mark the end of a very long era.

Once the city centre boasted a string of luxury cinemas, The Trocadera, opposite the Odeon in Camden Street, the Forum, Scala, Futurist and Palais De Luxe in Lime Street, and the Jacey in Clayton Square. Then there was the Essoldo in London Road which ended its life as a rather sleazy sex cinema.

The London Road Odeon, as the Paramount, was built on the site of a boxing stadium and was Liverpool’s largest purpose-built cinema with 2,700 seats. Its license was originally opposed in the 1930s, by the owners of the Lime Street cluster of picture houses, afraid of the competition. But The Paramount was the last word in cinemas, designed by the celebrated architects FT Verity and S Beverley, assisted by the Paramount's own director of construction.

It was stunningly illuminated at night with neon tubes, bringing the glamour of Hollywood to the streets of Liverpool. It employed 200 people – from managers and usherettes to projectionists. At the opening show on October 15, 1934, there was a personal appearance by one of Paramount’s biggest British movie stars, Ida Lupino. The cinema’s organ was used until 1968 when the Odeon - it had been renamed in the late 1940s - closed to be converted into a dual-screen cinema.

In 1954 the Odeon was the first Merseyside cinema, and one of the country, to be fitted with a massive CinemaScope screen.

Falling demand for huge auditoriums and rival out-of-town multiplexes led to the Odeon gradually becoming a multi-screen cinema, eventually making 10 screens.

The Odeon enjoyed world fame when, in July, 1964, it was used for the première of the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night. The arrival of the Fab Four for the screening, at the height of Bealtemania, brought the city to a standstill.

Thanks to Harold Ackroyd’s fabulous book, Picture Palaces of Liverpool (sadly out of print) the fortunes and misfortunes of the city’s cinemas has been well recorded.

But how will the closure of the Odeon affect the night time and leisure economy of London Road? Surely the cinema is a key anchor in this area, as magnet for filmgoers? There will be tears on Tuesday as a once glorious chapter comes to an end. Some of the Odeon staff have worked at the cinema for decades, it’s become their second home.

And while the new 14-screener will boast the very latest in cinema-going experience, I can’t help feel a tinge of sadness that the curtain has finally come down on a glorious age where people otherwise trapped by circumstance could escape to another world.

Still, cinemagoers will be in for a treat at the new Odeon between Paradise Street and South John Street.

As well as screening the latest blockbusters, the new 14-screener will show world films and art house productions. There will be a Senior Screen – free tea and coffee – for mid-morning screenings of modern and classic movies for “mature” cinemagoers. Odeon Kids will bring weekend matinees – with mums and dads admitted free. There will also be Newbies exclusively for parents with new babies, where you won’t get slung out if your sprog has a fit of screaming.

The new Odeon will feature a stunning third floor gallery bar with views across the Mersey.

The two largest auditoriums will each have 322 seats, two will have 246 and the rest will vary in size to Screen 14 which will have 114 seats.

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23 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Tricky WooSeptember 29th 2008.

...Or a full meeting of Liverpool City Council...

Professor ChucklebuttySeptember 29th 2008.

Piggy, i am afraid I cannot remember anything prior to the Kwikie on Smithdown. A journey up there would have meant venturing through the Earl Road district and at that time it was feared, in my neck of the woods, that you would be eaten by Protestants. This may have been an exageration at the time and probably more likeley that you would just be burned. It was a different era with sectarian divides. I did say that i was very a very young when I went to the Tunnel and probably in it's end of days. In fact there was trouble because we should have been taken by an adult as agreed but they allowed us to go alone, me and two mites, probably too young to cross the road really. I know the Tunnel remained derelict for a long time with a Bingo period in between and then before demolition, it became The Roxy night club. Which probably didn't affect the nightlife in Cannes too muchI think my general terror during those couple of hours at the Tunnel was increased by passing the many scary damp and cold looking Streets along wavertree road just before the old fruit depot and those along Tunnel Road itself. All now demolished but all big and soot black with deeply worn steps from a century of feet leading to each decaying front door. I am going to give myself nightmares if I keep thinking about this.

Professor ChucklebuttySeptember 29th 2008.

Wasn't there a small Tatler Cinema on Church Street and another on London Road with the same name that also became an XXX establishment? I seem to recall going to the Tatler at a very early age (it was a talkie!) which i think was on Church street and seeing amongst many other small features, Laurel & Hardy in Men O' War. " soda, soda, soda...and what will you have Stan?" A wonderful experience to see them large on screen. This was in contrast to my one and only visit to the Tunnel Road Picture House saturday Children's matinee (Jason and The Argonauts) which left me traumatised for years. The usherettes and bouncers, for that is what they were, used chairs and whips to control the crazed urchins and eventually had to form a human chain to prevent dozens bunking in. It may as well have beed a silent film as not one word could be heard above the screams and howling. i have never seen such a look of desperation heading towards violent psychosis as on the face of the man taking tickets. Ah the great days of cinema.

FuturistSeptember 29th 2008.

Loyd Grossman had better watch it.

scouse690September 29th 2008.

ABC Forum says..“ It's the old, old story of Liverpool getting wghat's second best. Manchester has a proper independent cinema, the Corner House. Liverpool gets FACT with its silly gimmicks and Hollywood rubbish.”I disagree ABC, Liverpool HAS got an independent Picture House, The Woolton on Mason Street, Woolton (aka "the Woollie"). It's a fantastic place with large comfy seats and loads of legroom...just like sitting in an armchair at home. They do screen one offs. I went to see "Liverpool on Film" last Thursday, presented by North West Archives, who gave a (live) brief description of each film footage before it was shown.It included previous unseen footage of Liverpool, taken by The Lumiere Bros in 1897...great stuff.LONG LIVE THE WOOLLIE!!

Rusty SpikeSeptember 29th 2008.

Indeed, the old much lamented Merseyside Film Institute...ah...nostalgia. Long gone of course, just like the real Bluecoat, but it was a terrific place full of atmosphere and always so packed you had to be as fast as a whippet to get a seat. Now Liverpool has transformed itself into a bland block of buildings that could be anywhere - and some people are raving about this being new era for the city. Ha! Oh, and by the way Mr Laz, I think the truly significant event at the London Road Odeon wasn't the showing of Hard Days Night but the concert by Bob Dylan as part of his UK tour which kicked up a storm when he switched on the electricity. Everyone remembers his Manchester gig at the Free Trade Hall as the one where folk (sic) rebelled and walked out at his perceived betrayal of the sandals and smock brigades but at the Odeon - in the same week - Mr Dylan also came in for a lotta flack and the scowling, hugely disappointed 'Disgusteds of Anfield and Ormskirk' departed to the refrains of a sardonic Dylan warbling The Times They Are A Changin. And then there are those of us who remember one of that cinema's great managers, the inimitable George Cranfield whose tall, languid figure would lope around the joint nodding and smiling benignly at customers. The Odeon is Dead! Long Live the Odeon! Now you can mingle anonymously in an anonymous shed, in a boring fecking shopping mall, with yer anonymous pals as you go to watch some anodyne Hollywood rubbish starring Cruise or Depp et al. The best is yet to come, eh....

Lord StreetSeptember 29th 2008.

That's what FACT was supposed to be for. If there's a film worth watching that's slipped through the net at the FACT, you can be sure it's being screened either when you're at work or at some ridiculously late time.I sometimes think it must be more convenient to attend Manchester's Corner House. It's only forty minutes on the train from Lime Street.

ClassicSeptember 29th 2008.

Hear hear! Bring back the Merseyside Film Institute Society with its little cinema in the Blucoat Chambers! Two films a week and always sold out whether they were in black-and-white, had subtitles or not made by and for yanks.

ABC ForumSeptember 29th 2008.

It's the old, old story of Liverpool getting wghat's second best. Manchester has a proper independent cinema, the Corner House. Liverpool gets FACT with its silly gimmicks and Hollywood rubbish.

GaumontSeptember 29th 2008.

Linda McCartney's veggie pies had animal fat in 'em! or was that her sausages?

Kenny MatotraphSeptember 29th 2008.

Aha, Henri!I remember continuous performances too - well one of them. It was at the Studio 1-2-3 cinema above the Hofbrauhaus at the bottom of Mount Pleasant (subsequently The Ritz, The 051, the ruin). It was in the late 1970s and they were showing 'Easy Rider' and 'The Last Detail' as a continuous double bill when my schoolmate and I went in.

Sunset BoulevardSeptember 29th 2008.

Will the last one to leave London Road switch off the lights please

Hooray HenriSeptember 29th 2008.

Nice that the closure of the Odeon has prompted memories of "going to the pics". Here's one of mine.When I was a lad it was usual to go into a cinema in the middle of a film, rather than wait until the end. Programmes used to be continuous, so we would then stay to see the part we had missed. The remark I associate with this practice is: "This is where we came in". Happy days.Talking of old cinemas, what is the most unusual use to which a Liverpool cinema has been put? My local, the Ritz on Utting Avenue, is now a sports and fishing tackle store - Taskers - but there must be plenty of more unusual transformations.

whatSeptember 29th 2008.

the target audience was for the tripe that was shown there. Some of the films shown were also simultaneously exhibited at the FACT, which not only helped segregate students and the middle classes from the normal Liverpool cinemagoer, but shows how the FACT continues to disappoint with its programme of mainstream Hollywood tripe.

DigSeptember 29th 2008.

Most cinemas can only exist by pandering to the masses with Hollywood tripe. A simple solution to keep most people happy would be for the multiplexes to have a dedicated screen or weekly evening for the more discerning filmgoer.

DigSeptember 29th 2008.

Yeah I know what FACT was for. Unfortunately it has changed with the times to survive. If it hadn't pandered and closed down we all would be saying what a shame it was. Most things change with time. Some for better, some for worse and that's a FACT.

David FlowerSeptember 29th 2008.

The Jacey in Clayton Square was the sex cinema, it later became a Christian Mission and was subsequently demolished along with one of the nicest pubs in Liverpool.

Matinee IdolSeptember 29th 2008.

The area around London Road is now the tattiest in Liverpool, and there is some competition. It is OK building the bland, we could be in any city, shopping area, but we have lost for good an area that was once, not so long ago, a really busy and exciting area. Remember Sampson & Barlows, the place to have your do. Now London Road is best avioded, how long before the Odean is burnt down, cos there is not a lot that can be done with it so it will be demolished.

NettoSeptember 29th 2008.

on Wavertree Road.

Tricky WooSeptember 29th 2008.

Sounds like a typical Capital of Culture event with Paramount Security in charge of the canapes and champagne, Prof

Salad DazeSeptember 29th 2008.

And, whatever the doubters' drug-addled memories tell you, Bob Dylan played an all-acoustic set there on 1st May 1965. And Alan Bleasdale's film No Surrender was premiered there in 1985. Ask Sammy Lee or Willy Russell. They, like me, bought new overcoats for the occasion from Avant Garde.

realisticSeptember 29th 2008.

Sad about Paul Newman dying like that. But you'll still be able to get the piri piri sauce, thankfully. Linda McCartney is dead and you can still get veggie sausages.

All for progressSeptember 29th 2008.

London Road hasn't got an awful lot going for it now. There's the Maharaja curry house and TJs still, but this is bound to turn it into a bit of a ghost town. Shame

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