The former Odeon Cinema, located on Clarence Place in Newport, Gwent, is a remarkable, surviving building from the Odeon Cinema chain. 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. Modernist architecture was almost exclusively used by Deutsch; only local planning constraints in particularly sensitive locations - such as historic Chester and York - restricted the design ambitions of Deutsch's architects.
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 bears a striking similarity to that of the Odeon at Sutton Coldfield, by Harry Weedon and Cecil Clavering. Again the design of the cinema was dominated by a central 'fin', although the 'Cinema' lettering at the top of the fin found at Sutton Coldfield was substituted with the Odeon name; perhaps the brand was considered sufficiently established enough that the name would speak for itself. In a departure from Sutton Coldfield, the fin featured projecting brick piers with horizontal, projecting brick bands.
To the left of the fin was a four-storey block with a tiled, faience frontage for the lower three storeys. The faience was placed in a 'basket-weave' style, providing some relief to the expanse of faience. Adjacent to the brick fin the windows feature a surround of black tiles, providing a horizontal emphasis to the frontage. To the left of these windows is a bay of smaller windows; the corner of the building has corner windows cut into the structure. Above the faience the Odeon name is attached in large illuminated lettering attached to more horizontal brick banding.
To the other side of the fin, at ground floor level, is the main entrance forming a chamfered curve to the right-most extent of the building. Above the projecting canopy the chamfered frontage features the same basket-weave faience. Behind, at right-angles to the fin is the curved eastern wing of the building, featuring porthole style windows and slot windows below the roof line with a larger window below. Above and behind, the wall built up to obscure the auditorium roof features the same horizontal brick banding as used elsewhere on the frontage.
The cinema was closed in May 1981 and remained empty for over twenty years. It was subsequently used as a snooker hall, night club, church and live music venue; none provided a sustainable use for the building. The building is currently vacant and is no longer part of the Odeon chain.
The building was awarded Grade-II listed status on 12 March 1999.
Posted by Richard Coltman on Tuesday, June 1, 2010