A Brief History of Cinema in Chester
by David A. Ellis and Steve Howe
More Photographs of the Odeon back to part I
The Odeon as it appeared in 1947..
How the cinema looked before its recent 'modernisations'. Compare it with the photograph below...
Doormen accompany the manager, Harry Yorke and friend outside the Odeon in 1937, a year after its opening.
Anyone know who the lady is and what was the occasion?
The Odeon staff in 1940
The Odeon's luxurious interior in 1936
Here's an interesting photograph of the beautiful Odeon cinema in York, one of two (Chester's, of course, being the other) that were specially designed and executed because of the historic surroundings in which they were situated. Both were designed by Robert Bullivant, of the Harry Weedon Architectural practice.
June 2006: Bad News for the Chester Odeon!
Unlike its ill-fated sister house in York (see above), where they refused to kow-tow to the Odeon's demands for their corporate 're-branding', it went ahead here- our planners expressed unhappiness about it but Odeon/UCI threatened to close if they didn't get their way and there was, naturally, a prompt back-down. The rebranding went ahead- the old red sign was replaced with a blue one- but, mere months later, they sold it anyway.
To generations of Chester people, an evening at the Odeon meant much more than merely watching a film. One could meet one's loved one or friends to have a drink or two, perhaps a meal, maybe watch the world go by in the Market Square or enjoy an early evening stroll on the City Walls- whatever made the perfect evening for you- before settling down to enjoy your film. After the show, there was still the chance of some supper and a final drink before going home.
11th December 2009: Yes, friends, welcome to the city that fancies itself as a 'Capital of Culture' but doesn't even have a theatre or cinema! It's just embarrassing. And once again, planning permission is being sought by Brook Leisure in far-away Doncaster to turn Chester's beloved- but outrageously closed- Art Deco Odeon Cinema into yet another nightclub!
The Odeon's sorry situation was never once alluded to during the voluminous press coverage of the regional premiere of the new blockbuster James Bond film, Casino Royale, which took place here before an invited audience on 15th November 2006. The film's star, Daniel Craig was born in 1968 just down the road in Liverpool Road, Chester and he is said to have seen his first James Bond film at the Odeon. After the show, Chester City Council's tourism boss, Gerald Tattum enthused, "next time, bring the world premiere to Chester!" An excellent idea indeed- but where?
Some time later, plans were announced for the conversion of the Odeon into Chester's new theatre, also incorporating two cinema screens and a new public library into the space, which would be expanded to take over the sites of the high-rise Commerce House in Hunter Street and the bookmaker's premises in Northgate Street. At the time of this most recent update, July 2013, discussion and planning continues but the re-opening of the Odeon seems as far away as ever.
• Return to the first page of our visit to the Odeon or perhaps visit the Northgate chapters of our Chester Virtual Stroll to learn more of this fascinating part of the city. Alternatively, go on to find out a little about Chester's only suburban cinema- the Park in Saltney...
This video shot in 2007 by David A Ellis features the chief Peter Davies, ex chief Gordon Potter, ex Music Hall, Gaumont projectionist Vin Dunning and others..