Life Props: Odeon London Road

Odeon London Road closes.

The Odeon London Road closed last night because a new multiplex has been added to the Liverpool One development and for obvious reasons the chain didn't want to have two cinemas operating in the town. Originally opened in the 1930s as the Paramount and converted to five screens in the seventies by Oscar Deutsch's group, this was the last of the original big picture houses in the city. Tragically the building is to be demolished to make way for "a Tesco or a hotel or something" according to the box office clerk when I popped in last week to check. Though that is understandable -- a cinema has such a specific utility it's not easy to simply convert it to another purpose and perhaps it's best that than what's happened to the Odeon on Oxford Road in Manchester, a ghostly shell which stands abandoned. Oscar Deutsch entertains our nation. Except in Liverpool, he'll be doing it somewhere else.

Last time I visited was for Ocean's 13, a couple of years ago. The projection was horrible, the sound poor, the print quality dreadful. Someone sat that the back of the screen chatting on their mobile phone throughout. It was refurbished in the late nineties and split into ten screens, the art deco exterior replaced with the somehow already dated branding that's there now. Five largish screens split into a array of tiny ones, with screen ten offering a picture the size of an average plasma screen. It lost some its soul, the maroon walls and orange lighting replaced with cobalt blue walls. Comfier seating perhaps, but now it was a proper multiplex and though the new tagline bleated that Odeon were 'fanatical about film', this seemed like a factory for the things, a production line of presentation which seemed to also coincide with start of the drift downwards of the behaviour of the audiences.

Still, as I stood on London Road today watching a chippy boarding up the windows, I couldn't help but feel nostalgic. For ages, this was my cinema. True the ABC Lime Street had the wrap around screen experience and 051 at the bottom of Mount Pleasant showed 'proper films' (art house), but if I was in town, or had just finished work and needed a quick fix of cinema, this Odeon was just across the road, and I'd be there all night. Glancing across at my dvd collection, I'm amazed at the sheer number of films I experienced first here, from The Lion King to Rushmore via The English Patient, and bunch of others not released by Disney or a subsidiary. Even at school, I'd install myself there with my friend Tris on a Sunday afternoon in front of whatever film was on -- one week Father of the Bride 2 another Seven and spend the next hour talking about what we'd seen. This is where I saw Groundhog Day, on the night that I finished school. I usually tell people that it was the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds that really sparked my interest in film. On reflection, it was probably here.

Updated 20/4/2011 The building has now been demolished.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Stuart, what a sad day.

    Many formative cinema going experiences of my teenage years were spent either in the London Road Odeon or across from Lime Street at the ABC. My first 18 certificate was Alien in a very packed, hot Odeon cinema and I vividly remember seeing all the original Star Wars trilogy at the London Road Odeon. That was when they still had just the five screens.

    I'd rather it be demolished than endure the sad, lonely fate of the Odeon in Manchester or the ABC Lime Street.

    Farewell, my youth.