Standing on the corner of Westborough, at the junction between Northway and Filey Road, stands Scarborough's former Odeon Cinema. The building stands away from the main centre of the North Yorkshire seaside town, located opposite the train station. This impressive building was constructed in the 1930s for the Odeon Cinema chain as part of its rapidly expanding nationwide network of cinemas.
The company, founded by Oscar Deutsch (1893-1941), opened its first cinema bearing the Odeon name at Perry Barr in Birmingham on 4 August 1930. The increasing popularity of cinema-going amongst the British public allowed the Odeon chain to grow, so much so that by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the company owned around 250 cinemas across the country.
The company almost exclusively built its cinema in an Art Deco style. Many were products of the Weedon Partnership. Harry Weedon (1887-1970) became involved with the Odeon chain in 1934 when he was commissioned to come up with alternative plans for the interior of the Warley cinema, then under construction in West Warley, Warwickshire. Weedon himself employed John Cecil Clavering (1910-2001) to execute the designs for the Warley Cinema.
The work of Weedon and Clavering appealed to Oscar Deutsch and the Weedon Partnership would go on to design many of the chain's finest cinemas including those at Kingstanding, Sutton Coldfield, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Newport (Gwent) and Scarborough. The Odeon Scarborough opened on 28 March 1936, incorporating a first floor cafe and ground floor shops.
The design for the Odeon Scarborough was a scheme used a number of times by the Weedon Partnership, often at sites where the cinema occupied a corner plot at the junction of two roads. The basic design revolved around a main block, with a central fin or tower projecting from main facade and beneath a curved corner with projecting canopy. The design was used with subtle variations at Scarborough, Sutton Coldfield and its near twin at Harrogate, and Newport.
The dominant feature of the building is a slender tower, with a curved leading edge, clad in buff-coloured faience tile. A vertical channel of red faience in set into the apex of the curve of the tower, which at night is lit by neon lighting. 'Cinema' lettering is affixed to the top of the tower.
The tower stands at the outside corner of a six storey, brick clad block accommodating the main stairwell of the building. The block has a slender, narrow metal-framed window rising from first-floor level to its uppermost storey.
Beneath the tower is a deeply projecting, curved canopy formed of three tiers, each projecting increasingly further outwards. The canopy stands above four sets of double doors, with rectangular glazed panels. The doors are set between curved, chromed piers with a rectangular overlight above each door. Each overlight has three slender, chromed horizontal glazing bars. The doors have chromed kick bars, incorporated into the bottom of the door handles.
Above the canopy is a curved outer wall, which is fully glazed beneath a curved parapet, clad in the same buff faience. The faience carried three horizontal neon lighting strips. Above, lettering spelling out 'Cafe' is affixed to the faience. The metal-framed windows have close-set horizontal glazing bars.
Returning along Westborough is a five storey block of four bays with a tiled, faience frontage. At ground floor level the faience is black in colour, with two slender red bands of faience towards the top. A door is recessed into the corner of the block whilst the rest of the facade at ground level carries three rectangular advertising hoardings.
Above, are large rectangular windows, diminishing in height from the first to the second floors. The third and fourth floors are blank, with large red 'Odeon' lettering set beneath three slender horizontal bands of green faience, illuminated at night by neon strip lighting. The facade is clad in the same buff faience as the tower, with the exception of the curved corner of the Westborough elevation, which is clad in brown brick.
Returning along Northway is a five-bay three-storey brick-clad frontage set in front of the stepped auditorium outer wall. Lettering spelling out 'Odeon' is carried on auditorium wall at its highest point. At ground floor level are five shops, with large plate glass windows set either side of a recessed doorway. Above the first and second floors have metal framed windows. The windows bays are of differing widths, with a wide central bay and two narrow bays either side, with slightly wider bays to the outside.
At some point, most likely in the immediate years after the Second World War, the height of the parapet above the curved windows of the cafe was reduced in height by half.
During the 1960s and 1970s the Odeon cinema chain faced growing competition from the increasingly popular medium of television. Many Odeon cinemas were too big for modern audiences and a scheme to subdivide many of the auditoria was introduced. A process of 'twinning' where the a new floor was installed above the stalls creating a separate space from the former balcony above, or 'tripling' where the same process occurred, but the stalls was split in two smaller spaces was employed with varying degrees of success. However, the Odeon Scarborough somehow escaped this fate.
The cinema remained open until 21 October 1988. The building fell into disuse but was taken over by the Stephen Joseph Theatre a year later. An ambitious scheme saw an extensive redevelopment of the former Odeon cinema.
The original auditorium, with 1,711 seats - 946 in the stalls and 765 in the balcony - and with wonderful decoration by Mollo and Egan was sacrificed and demolished to create two separate spaces. The facade of the building was maintained, but its heart ripped out. Some of Mollo and Egan's decorative panels were rescued and reinstated within the The McCarthy auditorium.
The building was awarded Grade-II listed status on 8 June 1973.
Posted by Richard Coltman on Saturday, June 1, 2013