Odeon Cinema Wolverhampton, West Midlands

  • Skinner Street, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, WV1 4LD
  • Designed by: Harry Weedon and P J Price
  • Built: 1937
  • Tags: Art Deco, Cinema

The former Odeon Cinema stands on Skinner Street in the centre of Wolverhampton. The Mayor Of Wolverhampton, Sir Charles Mander, officially opened the cinema on 11 September 1937. The cinema was designed by Harry Weedon and P.J. Price. The design was distinguished by a main tower. Set on the left hand side of the building the tall, slender tower features two projecting vertical 'ribs' clad in black faience. The front of the tower itself is clad in buff faience while the sides are characterised with projecting vermilion red horizontal 'ribs'. The 'ribs' terminate just short of the full height of the tower to allow the 'Odeon' name to be displayed prominently.

At ground floor level the main entrance sits beneath a projecting canopy which terminates to the left in a 180 degree curve, and to the right in an elaborate 'scroll'. The entrance is clad in black faience with slender horizontal bands of green faience. Advertising boards are located either side of the main entrance. Above the canopy, the facade is clad in three vertical bands of buff faience separate by projecting brick piers. The central band is double the width of the outside bands and is broken mid-height by two slot windows. The uppermost section of faience is broken by further vermilion red horizontal 'ribs'.

To the right the auditorium is stepped down in height. Its facade features five tall, double height windows, surrounded by black faience - broken with further horizontal bands of green faience - set into a projecting surround of buff faience. Above the windows, the five letters of the Odeon name are spelt out in large letters, evenly spaced in line with the windows. The rest of the facade is of red brick. Five horizontal slot windows are set directly above the five main windows. Above, the brickwork is broken by horizontal channels.

Inside the auditorium, seating was originally divided into stalls and balcony seating, with 1,272 seats in the stalls and 668 in the balcony. The cinema was 'tripled' in 1973, that is to say the a floor installed to separate the balcony and stalls, and the space beneath sub-divided to create two smaller cinemas. Seating was provided for 622 in the balcony and 96 and 111 seats in the smaller, ground-floor cinemas.

The cinema was closed on 4 June 1983. The cinema was converted to a bingo hall - the 'tripling' was reversed - as part of the Top Rank and, later, the Mecca Bingo chains. However this was closed in March 2007 as attendances dropped following the introduction of a ban on smoking in public places. As of early 2008 the cinema remains un-occupied. Her exterior appears very weathered and lower windows and entrance are covered with metal shutters to prevent vandalism.

The cinema was listed Grade-II on 5 October 2000 at the same time as the nearby former Odeon Dudley. At the time of its closure the Odeon Wolverhampton presented a common dilemma of how to preserve historic buildings with no longer suited the purpose for which they were built. In this case, the large auditorium space meant it was difficult to find another use for the building.

Fortunately a new use was found for the building and in October 2009 the former Odeon Wolverhampton re-opened as the Diamond Banqueting Suite. The building was refurbished with its interior restored for use as a banqueting and events venue, providing a promising sustainable future for this once at risk listed former cinema.

References

  • Eyles, Allen (2002) Odeon Cinemas, 1: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation London: Cinema Theatre Association/BFI Publishing

Posted by Richard Coltman on Sunday, June 1, 2008

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