By: Harry Weedon and Arthur J Price
The former Odeon Cinema, located on Baxtergate in Loughborough, is a fine, surviving building from the Odeon Cinema chain. Modernist architecture was almost exclusively used by Deutsch. The chain, started by Oscar Deutsch with its first cinema in Perry Barr in Birmingham owned in excess of 250 cinemas prior to the Second World War.
Like many of the early Odeon cinemas the Odeon Newport was designed by the Weedon Partnership, with Arthur J Price assisting Harry Weedon in the execution of the design. Overall, the design features were used on a number of cinemas designed by Weedon. The Tower West Bromwich, built earlier in 1936, was the first (albeit for a independent chain unconnected with Odeon). Essentially a block-shape, the building featured streamlined, chamfered corners on the main elevation. The lower storey was in black faience, giving way to biscuit-coloured faience above. A canopy projected above the main entrance with wide windows set above. The cinema name was carried in large lettering above the windows. The faience at the top of the main elevation was broken with three bands of green faience.
Weedon and Price re-worked the Tower West Bromwich design at Loughborough. The black base of the building was broken with slender horizontal bands of green faience. Above, the canopy was more streamlined. Above that the windows were more deeply recessed below a projecting lip canopy. The window section curved back inside the main building with slender, faience-clad piers projecting between the windows supporting the lip canopy above the windows. As at the Tower, the 'Odeon' name was carried above; the middle letters of the 'Odeon' name were aligned with the three windows below. Again, three rows of green faience relieved the biscuit faience. As at the Odeon Newport (also by Weedon and Price) the biscuit-faience was placed in a basket-weave pattern. Each corner of the main elevation was interrupted with corner windows cut into the window, and recessed slightly.
The side elevation, on Lemyngton Street, was unusual in its styling. So often many side elevations of Odeon cinemas were fairly simple and unadorned by any architectural features. At Loughborough Weedon and Price included a large advertising hoarding. This was placed in a brick frame, with horizontal brick banding extending outwards from the frame on each side. Above the hoarding was a small, projecting canopy. Above this a central, slender section of vertical brick banding extended upwards towards another canopy, projecting slightly further outwards than that below. More horizontal banding extending outwards on either side of the vertical bands. Above the top canopy the 'Odeon' name was carried on four horizontal, projecting brick bands.
More recent, modern alterations and additions to the building have seen four of the five double entrance doors bricked up. Also, large air conditioning units have been incongruously installed between the window piers, sadly detracting from the overall harmony of the Weedon design. However, the building is remarkably unaltered.
The cinema left the Odeon chain in December 1967 and became the Classic cinema. It closed within six years in January 1974. The building is now operated as part of the Beacon Bingo chain. The chain has five other bingo halls, including a converted theatre, the Streatham Hill Theatre in Sreatham, London. It is nice to see the a stylised graphic of Loughborough building used on the chain's homepage.
The building was awarded Grade-II listed status on 17 December 2007. The listing cites the reasons as i) it being a well-preserved and "accomplished" example of its type; ii) it being rare and largely unaltered; and iii) for its architectural design and use of coloured faience.