20 The Headrow,
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Firms: Verity and Beverley
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Paramount Theatre
Located at the corner of The Headrow and New Briggate. The Paramount Theatre first opened on 22nd February 1932 with Maurice Chevalier in “The Smiling Lieutenant”. The sparkling new picture palace delighted 1.2 million patrons over its first year alone.
It was built for and operated by the American based Paramount Pictures Ltd. who built and operated seven Paramount Theatres in the UK, others being in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Glasgow and London’s Tottenham Court Road. It was designed by their favoured architectural firm in the UK, Verity & Beverley. The Paramount Theatre was equipped with a Wurlitzer 3Manual 19ranks organ with an embossed console, which was opened by organist Rex O'Grady.
Taken over by Odeon Theatres Ltd. in November 1939, it was re-named Odeon in April 1940. The theatre never stopped showing movies and was even the site of two concerts by The Beatles (with Roy Orbison) in June 1963 and solo in November 1963 and October 1964.
Closed in September 1968 for twinning, when the Wurlitzer organ was removed from the building and installed in the Thursford organ collection in Norfolk, where it still resides today. The Odeon re-opened on 15th May 1969 with 978 seats in an extended balcony and 1,297 in the stalls. A third screen was added in a former bar area on 23rd July 1978 which seated 126. The downstairs former stalls auditorium was tripled on 1st April 1988 and had seating for 441, 200 and 174, giving a total reduced seating capacity of 1,923.
The Odeon, which was the last picture palace in the city centre, closed on 28th October 2001 due to competition from local multiplexes and in advance of a new 13-screen cinema which was about to open. The final films were “Jeepers Creepers”, “American Pie 2”, “Atlantis”, “American Sweethearts”, “The Fast and the Furious”, “Cats and Dogs”.
In a somewhat positive development, the building was not to be razed completely, but instead was gutted internally and converted into an apartment and retail complex. The Odeon Leeds demise came just two years after the only other remaining picture palace, the ABC Cinema on Vicar Lane, closed. The demise of yet another Odeon has become an all too familiar story around England.
In late-2005, housing occupies the majority of the interior of the building on its upper floors, with a Primark clothing store in the ground floor space. Primark have since relocated and by 2021 the building is now a Sports Direct store.
The Paramount/Odeon exterior by architect Sir Reginald Blomfield is a Grade II Listed building.
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