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The Odeon Cinema, Magdalen Street, Oxford

Oxford Theatres

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The Oxford 'Super' Cinema was designed by J. C. Leed (architect) and built by Frank Matcham & Company of London, famous Theatre and cinema builders. It was operated by The Oxford Cinematograph Theatre Company with its main frontage on Magdalen Street, and opened on January 1st 1924, with the silent film 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' starring Rudolph Valentino.

The original entrance was small and surrounded by marble, above which was an illuminated bronze sign saying 'The Oxford'. Inside was a lounge decorated in the French Renaissance style, and a 'high class' café. These led through to the main auditorium which sat 1,300 patrons. There being 950 downstairs in the stalls and 350 upstairs in the circle. The decoration in the auditorium was dominated by two large paintings on either side of auditorium by the artist G. Rushton. One was entitled 'Modern Sport and the other 'Early Morning'. The cinema also had an Electric 'Organestra' (electric Organ) which was one of only three built by the Spurdon Rutt Company. There is reference elsewhere to the Cinema having had a proscenium arch, with the screen inside, and an orchestra pit, but I am told that the Cinema did not have dressing rooms backstage and that the orchestra pit was for silent film accompaniment only, so it is unlikely that the cinema was ever used for live performances.

The Cinema was the first in Oxford to show talking pictures this being 'The Broadway Melody' starring Charles King on 6th January 1930.

In 1931 the cinema was taken over by the Union Cinema chain, then being renamed The Oxford 'Super' Cinema

In 1935/36 the proscenium was rebuilt and the stage extended out over the orchestra pit. This reduced the seating capacity down to 1,251 seats.

In October 1937 Associated British Cinema's (ABC) took over Union Cinema's, and continued to operate the cinema.

The cinema was refurbished in July 1971, with new decoration and new seats and re-opened after four weeks, now known as the ABC Magdalen Street, the seating capacity was reduced to 853 luxury seats using the stalls area only.

In the mid 1980's the ABC was taken over by the Cannon Group and renamed the 'Cannon'. The cinema was then taken over by MGM and renamed the 'MGM', but was later bought back in a management buy-out and renamed again as the ABC. In 2000 the cinema was bought by Odeon Cinema's and renamed the Odeon Magdalen Street. The main auditorium now seats 652 people in the stalls and circle, and the former café has been turned into a 62 seat mini cinema. The cinema was given another re-vamp in 2010 with new seats being installed.

The Odeon is a Grade II Listed building.

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt and kindly sent in for inclusion in 2011. The article is © David Garratt 2011.

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