Odeon Cinema Leicester, Leicestershire

  • Rutland Street, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE1 1SA
  • Designed by: Harry Weedon and Robert Bullivant
  • Built: 1937 - 1938
  • Tags: Cinema, Streamlined Moderne

The former Odeon cinema in Leicester is a striking building, designed by Harry Weedon and Robert Bullivant from Odeon's favoured architectural practice. The cinema stands on a corner site at the junction of Rutland Street and Queen Street in Leicester. The cinema housed a single screen and seating for nearly 2,200 customers. It opened on 28 July 1938 and remained part of the Odeon cinema chain for 59 years.

As with many corner-site Odeon cinemas the Weedon Partnership used a entrance beneath a curved canopy and frontage. At Leicester, five double doors are accessed up by three steps from street level. To either side of the entrance and canopy are two curved brick wings, carrying the internal staircases providing access to the auditorium balcony. Above the canopy the curved corner of the building is bisected by four projecting piers, each terminating in a curve at top. The piers divide five tall window bays providing light into the building. Architectural detailing is provided above the windows by slender, projecting vertical ribs, curved to the top and bottom.

The top of the staircase wings and 'entrance' corner to the building has vertical brick banding, providing relief to the brickwork of the facade. Above that, the 'Odeon' name is carried in large letters across the curved corner, placed over horizontal channels 'cut' into the brickwork. The frontage was 'decorated' with neon lighting, fitted so as to harmonise with the architectural features of the exterior.

The lower third of the west side wall is a combination of black tiles and advertising hoardings set into brickwork. Above, two sets of three windows - set between brick piers - are placed beneath biscuit-coloured faience. The windows are broken by continuous horizontal bars, placed across the windows and brickwork. The faience is in a basket-weave pattern, as seen at nearby Loughborough. Three thin horizontal bands of green faience tiles are set above the basket-weave faience. Stepped back from the main facade is a brick parapet, to hide the auditorium roof.

The south and north walls of the building features horizontal channeling with pilasters providing relief to the expanse of brickwork. The south and north walls taper slightly before joining the east wall. The ground floor level continues to the east slightly further.

The cinema auditorium was sub-divided into three smaller cinemas - a process called tripling - in the early 1960s. A smaller fourth cinema was added in 1988. By 1997 the cinema had been earmarked for closure - that it is a walk away from the main shopping area may have counted against it. The building remained closed for a number of years until it was taken over and converted for use as the Athena Conference & Banqueting centre. The exterior was restored and many of her surviving interior features conserved and restored.

The building was awarded Grade-II listed status on 27 August 1997.


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

Posted on Tuesday, June 1, 2010

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