O2 Academy Brixton
211 Stockwell Road,
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Academy Music Group (Official)
Operated by: Academy Music Group
Previous Names: Astoria Theatre, Odeon Astoria, Sundown, Fair Deal, Brixton Academy
The Astoria Theatre was the first of four Astoria Theatre’s built in the inner London suburbs by independent exhibitor A. Segal. The others being located on Old Kent Road (now demolished), Streatham (now a multiscreen Odeon) and Finsbury Park (now a church).]
Located in the southwest London inner-city district of Brixton. This Astoria Theatre was opened on August 19, 1929 with Al Jolson in “The Singing Fool”, and is regarded as the first fully fledged Atmospheric style theatre in Great Britain. This large super-cinema was fully equipped for stage shows on its 40 feet deep stage, as well as films. The interior decorations were carried out by interior designer Marc Henri. There was a Compton 3Manual/12Rank organ which had two consoles, one in the orchestra pit and the other on the stage. It was opened by George Pattman. There was a cafe/restaurant for the convenience of patrons. An unusual feature was the location of the projection box which was ‘hung’ beneath the circle, giving a straight throw onto the screen.
In December 1930 it was taken over by Paramount Pictures Inc. and they sold their cinemas to the Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain operated by Oscar Deutsch on 27th November 1939.
In later years it was known as the Odeon Astoria and was closed by the Rank Organisation on 29th July 1972 with Charles Bronson in “Red Sun” and Christopher Jones in “The Looking Glass War”.
It was converted into a Sundown discotheque, but this was a short lived (4-months) venture and planning permission was sought to demolish the building, but this was scrapped. The building became a warehouse storing equipment for the Rank Organisation for several years. It was re-opened on 12th March 1982 as a rock concert venue known as the Fair Deal with a concert by UB40, but closed in April 1982 when the operators went bankrupt. It re-opened as the Academy on 7th October 1983 with a concert by the Japanese group Eek-a-Mouse. The plasterwork in the auditorium has been slightly damaged over the years, especially in the early years of its current use as a concert venue when punk concerts were held. The current full capacity is 4,921 as all seating has been removed from the stalls floor. If seating is installed in the stalls the capacity would be 2,391, with 1,083 of these being in the circle. There is standing space for 3,760 in the stalls and 78 in the circle.
The theater became known as the Brixton Academy and was designated a Grade II Listed building on 16th January 1974 and this was upgraded to Grade II* Listed building on 26th March 1990. In 2006 renovation work was carried out to restore the building to its 1929 splendour. In a sponsorship deal with the mobile telephone company O2, it was re-named O2 Academy Brixton from January 2009.
Tragedy struck on 15th December 2022 when a mob of ticketless fans stormed the building, trying to gain admission to a concert by Nigerian artist Asake. Security guards Gaby Hutchinson (23) & Rebecca Ikumelo (33) were caught up in the crush and were hospitalised where they died due to injuries. The concert was cancelled. The theatre was closed and Lambeth Council revoked its licence to operate for 3 months to hold an enquiry into how it happened. In April 2023, the Metropolitan Police advised that the licence should be revoked permanently. One person was still seriously ill in hospital 9 months after the tragedy.
On 15th September 2023 it was announced that the operating licence will be reinstated, with a proviso that 77 new safety features are implemented. A reopening date is to be announced later.
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