By: Thomas Cecil Howitt
The Odeon cinema in Weston-super-Mare stands on the corner of Walliscote Road and Regent Street, a quarter of a mile from the sea front of the North Somerset town. The building is an imposing structure and arguably one of the finest buildings constructed for the Odeon cinema chain.
The building was designed by British architect Thomas Cecil Howitt (1889 - 1968). Howitt is responsible for a number of significant twentieth century buildings in Nottingham, where he worked in the city engineer's department and later in private practice. Howitt also went on to design a number of cinemas for the Odeon chain.
His designs for cinemas at Warley, Weston-super-Mare, Bridgwater and Clacton were all based around a dominant design theme, a square tower with a projecting flat slab roof supported by squat, cylindrical columns. At Weston-super-Mare the tower is positioned at the corner of the site, above and behind the foyer. A curved canopy projects outwards from the slab tower, above five sets of double doors providing access to the street via steps into the foyer. Howitt used a second smaller tower to the left of the slab tower (when looking towards the building from Regent Street), with a large double-height metal framed window.
The two 'wings' (enclosing the auditorium behind) either side of the towers on Regent Street and Walliscote Road are both three storeys high, with shop units at ground floor level and offices and rooms above. The Regent Street elevation comprises three bays with Crittall-style metal framed windows. The windows in each outer-most bay have short horizontal bands of green faience between biscuit-coloured faience. At ground floor level there is a single shop unit and a set of doors to the left. The Walliscote Road elevation comprises five window bays, again with Crittall-style metal framed windows. The are two sets of doors either side of three shop units, positioned centrally. Both street elevations originally had small projecting canopies above the shop fronts (these are illustrated above, but have been removed at some point).
The facade of the building is covered in biscuit-coloured faience, except at street level on Regent Street and Walliscote Road where the building is clad in black glass 'Vitrolite' panels. The faience above is in basket-weave pattern, relieved by three narrow horizontal bands of green faience on the smaller tower and Regent Street and Walliscote Road elevations. At night neon lighting placed in line with the green faience, around the 'Odeon' and and along the edge of the canopies provided an attractive night-time exterior.
Inside the original cinema auditorium was spilt into three smaller screens in 1973, a process called 'tripling'. A fourth screen was added in 1991. Elements of the building's original interiors have survived. Unfortunately the original 'Odeon' lettering on the exterior has been replaced with modern signage, despite this replacement occuring after the building was listed.
The building was awarded Grade-II listed status on 21 August 1986. Of the four Howitt-designed slab tower Odeon cinemas, the Odeon Weston-super-Mare is the only largely-original surviving cinema of the four (Warley and Clacton have been demolished and Bridgwater is in a poor state of repair, minus its flat slab roof).