Odeon Balham

Balham Hill and Malwood Road,
London, SW12 9EA

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Odeon Theatres Ltd., Rank Organisation

Architects: George Coles

Functions: Housing, Retail

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: Liberty Cinema

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Odeon Balham

Located at the northern end of Balham Hill (closer to Clapham) in southwest London. The Odeon Balham was my first cinema as a child, albeit it shut down when I was 8 years old, so I ‘had’ to go to the then one-screen Streatham Odeon (Astoria Theatre), or the one screen ABC Streatham (the former Regal Cinema).

Opened with great publicity, especially promoting the wonderously modern projection, sound, comfort and air conditioning as part of the wonders of modern architecture and technology, and showing a cartoon in colour, as well as the newsreel, the Odeon opened with “Blondes for Danger” on 16th April 1938. It was built for and operated by the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd.

It was well placed as a ‘super cinema’, having no competition in Balham apart from the Gaumont Clapham, the nearest ‘super competion’ would be comfortably further away to the Granada Tooting, or the Granada Clapham Junction.

Being on a (smallish) hill, Balham Hill, the tower was visible for quite a way, with the Odeon sign illuminated on either side. The foyer, and cafe was lavish, with a large amount of daylight spilling in to the circle foyer. The right-hand side of the front of the building was damaged by a German bomb in May 1941, and this closed the cinema for several weeks until temporary repairs could be carried out.

It survived as a first-run cinema until the early-1970’s, before closing with “Shaft’s Big Score” and “No Blade of Grass” on 9th September 1972.

Balham having a large Asian population helped the cinema re-open as the Liberty Cinema on 13th December 1974, albeit later, on a bit of a ‘shoestring’ budget and finally operating at weekends only. The Liberty Cinema closed it’s doors in 1980.

Local schoolkids had ‘fun’ breaking many windows with stones and breaking in and wreaking havoc with fire extinguishers…

The auditorium was demolished round about May 1985, and the Majestic Wine Warehouse took over the front and foyer of this cinema.

Later, flats were built on the auditorium site, and then in the upstairs circle foyer, hence the name ‘Foyer Apartments’.

The frontage, thankfully… survives.

Contributed by Kev Phelan

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on April 10, 2005 at 4:06 am

In October 1940, the Odeon Balham was hit by a bomb which destroyed the entire right side of the front of the building. Luckily the auditorium was undamaged and after a clear up, the cinema opened for business as normal. Looking at a photo of the Odeon taken at the time, I would say that if it were to happen today, the cinema would never be allowed to open in the state it was in.

The destroyed right hand side of the front of the Odeon was re-built to its original design when the war was over and can still be seen today as the facade to residential use that has now been built on the site of the auditorium.

kevinp on August 16, 2005 at 12:31 pm


go to Odeon Cavalcade and select B for Balham, et voila


kev p

kevinp on July 1, 2007 at 2:02 am

Some more photo’s here from the 1930’s

View link


woody on September 19, 2007 at 2:23 am

Here is a set of photos i took last weekend, the frontage still looks great apart from as usual with london cinemas, someone has planted a tree in front to hide it.
Little remains of the lobby just the front doors and some sexy curved plasterwork above them, but nothing else from what i could see
Click on the thumnails to open them to a larger size
View link

kevinp on September 6, 2008 at 5:05 am

herewith some excellent ( and sad :>( ) pictures from a very talented and passionate cinema historian , who has spent ages scanning thousands of pictures in to share with us all ! Many thanks M.B !

View link

spencerphobbs on September 4, 2014 at 6:39 am

As the Liberty, this was one of the more successful Asian cinema operations, though ultimately killed off by the availability of “Bollywood” films on home video. It closed in 1980, not 1979, however, and had latterly been open at weekends only. The Mile End Liberty, another ex-Odeon, also closed in 1980. Ken Roe also states that it was bomb damaged in October 1940 when it lost the right hand of its frontage….this indeed occurred, but in May 1941, and not October 1940 as stated. The reference to the “G” being put in front of the former name ODEON, to form GODEON, did actually take place, though this was at what became the LIBERTY SOUTHALL, and not Balham as implied.

MelMenziesAuthor on July 23, 2015 at 5:59 am

I’ve just been researching the Odeon Cinema, Balham Hill, for my second book in the Evie Adams series (following #TimetoShine, which is set in Exeter). My grandmother owned the Freehold on the land the Odeon was built on, and when I used to take my sister to Saturday morning pictures (she was under age) precocious child that I was, I used to tell the ticket office that they had, therefore, to let her in. They always did :)

Buffer on February 27, 2017 at 2:37 am

A staff member at the Majestic Wine Centre kindly produced several framed photos of the cinema interior when a CTA party dropped in on February 26th,2017 on their way to the Granada. The visit notes describe the location as South Clapham, not Balham.

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