“Mods v Knockers” as campaigners engage last ditch attempt to save former Odeon cinema from demolition
Article published: Thursday, May 6th 2010
Campaigners fighting to save the former Odeon Cinema on Oxford Road from demolition gathered on Tuesday night at the art-deco style venue for an evening of popcorn and projections called “Let’s Meet at the Odeon”.
The flashmob-style event called, featuring a specially-commissioned film chronicling the history of the Odeon, was put together by the nascent Manchester Modernist Society and a collective of MA students at MMU known as the Manchester Municipal Design Corporation. Almost 50 people, including passers-by came to watch and find out more about the campaign to save the iconic structure.
The event was timed to coincide with the deadline for objections to the planning application approved for the site and a petition circulated at the event added to an online petition with over 150 signatures, according to Modernist Society co-founder Maureen Ward.
Opened as the Paramount in 1930, the venue was the first ‘movie palace’ outside of London built by the eponymous Hollywood studio. Originally designed with almost 3,000 seats in a grand art deco style, “typically American in scale”, it was the first of its type in Manchester.
In a speech delivered after the film, Maureen outlined the history of the venue, and derided the plans for a 14 storey office block on the site: “There are building sites across the entire city half-finished and abandoned as the money disappeared and companies went bust.
Maureen believes that demolishing the building would not only be a destruction of modern architectural heritage but also out of step with “another model, one of reuse, recycling and sustainability.
She added: “If the Odeon survived the white heat of the rebuilding era [after the 1996 bombing], it seems plain rude to pull it down now.
“Also, it seems to us that little or no attempt was made to find an alternative use for the building.”
David Eve, is the northern representative of the Cinema Theatres Association, a volunteer group that actively monitors the fate of cinema buildings. He was adamant about the potential for the Odeon: “Without doubt, this is an incredible building. Perhaps one of the only Paramount buildings that could be returned to use.
“Being on this particular road in Manchester, the home of cinema and theatre, it’s a shame that it can’t be used for entertainment or as a conference centre. Something befitting its history.” He added: “It’s important as a landmark that the facade at least should be kept.”
“Of its size and scale, anywhere outside of London, it’s probably the most historically important cinema that survives.”
The venue opened in grand style complete with film premiere, variety acts, a beauty parade and the characteristic Wurlitzer organ. Over the next 30 years, the Odeon (as it was after 1940) played host to the latest films and even live performances including the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
As cinema viewership declined in the ’70s it was divided up into smaller screens and eventually closed following competition from modern cineplexes like the AMC Great Northern and Odeon moved into and took over the cinema in the Printworks.
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