Odeon Oxford, Magdalen Street
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Odeon Theatres UK (Official)
Operated by: Odeon Theatres Ltd.
Previously operated by: Associated British Cinemas Ltd., Cannon Cinemas, MGM Theatres, Union Cinema Co. Ltd.
Architects: J.C. Leed
Firms: Frank Matcham & Company
Functions: Movies (First Run)
Styles: French Renaissance
Previous Names: Oxford 'Super' Cinema, Super Cinema, ABC, Cannon, MGM
The Oxford ‘Super’ Cinema was built for and intitially operated by The Oxford Cinematograph Theatre Co. It opened on 1st January 1924 with Rudolph Valentino in "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". It has a very small entrance on Magdalen Street which was originally surrounded by marble. Above the entrance was a bronze illuminated fascia sign with the name ‘The Oxford’. Inside the main lounge, decorations were in a French Renaissance style. The auditorium had seating arranged for 1,300; 950 in the stalls and 350 in the circle. There were two large paintings on the side-walls of the auditorium, one depicting ‘Modern Sport’ and the other ‘Early Morning’, both were the work of artist G. Rushton. The cinema was equipped with a 2Manual/6Rank Electric ‘Organestra’ manufactured by the Spurdon Rutt company which was opened by Stanley Hemery. It was one of only three of these instruments ever made. There was also a ‘high class’ cafe for the convenience of patrons.
On 6th January 1930 it became the first cinema in Oxford to screen talking pictures, the first here was "The Broadway Melody" starring Charles King. The Oxford ‘Super’ Cinema was taken over by the Union Cinemas chain in 1931 and re-named Super Cinema. In 1935-1936 the proscenium was re-built and the stage extended over the orchestra pit. Seating was reduced to 1,251.
In October 1937 Union Cinemas were taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) and they operated it for many years. It was closed in July 1971 for a re-furbishment, new seats and re-decoration etc and re-opened later that month as the ABC Magdalen Street with 853 luxury seats, using the stalls area only.
Around 1986 it was taken over by the Cannon Group and re-named Cannon, later by MGM and re-named MGM, and then taken back by ABC in a management buy-out. Odeon Cinemas took over in 2000 and the name has now changed to Odeon. The former cafe has now been converted into a second screen seating 62 and there are 652 seats in the main auditorium, using stalls and circle. In May 2010, new seats were installed and the cinema was given a renovation.
The Odeon is a Grade II Listed building.
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Recent comments (view all 10 comments)
About the organ; Spurdon Rutt, who also built church organs, built only three theater organs. One was parted out, one is in the hands of a private owner. and the only 3 manual instrument (3/6 from the from the Regal, Highams Park, London) is located at the St. Alban’s Organ Theater along with the ex Empire(Granada), Edmonton, London 3/10 Wurlitzer. The Rutt has an incredibly mellow and beautiful sound.
Three photos of the Odeon Oxford in its ABC days here:–
According to the book ‘Early Oxford Picture Palaces’ by Paul J. Marriot (Published 1978):
‘After 1932, when Mr Barraclough was the organist, it seems never to have been played again. However in 1965 the old organ was rediscovered housed in a concrete chamber behind the screen, remarkably intact.’
I wonder what happened to to it?
Article about refurbishment & restoration of plasterwork
It doesn’t look like they have restored the paintings each side of the auditorium, they still appear to be curtained over. The CTA had some input into the restoration of the foyer. In answer to a query long ago, the organ is in a private house near Woking, Surery, UK.
The projection room was accessed up a very narrow, extremely raked stairwell, culminating out onto the roof, then walk over the ventilation system into a very small room, cold.
Hi my name is Mal bickley I was the manager of the cinema when it was dismantled slowly and carefully in the 70s. I saw every piece of this amazing organ removed by a private buyer it was a joy to see this amazing instrument. If any one remembers me then please feel free to contact me on . I was the manager from 1972 -1979. Many happy memories. Cheers Mal
Visited this cinema plus ABC (now Odeon), George Street many times whilst growing up. Haven’t been inside since the second screen was added but it’s good to see it still running all of these years later.
It has one of the highest seating single auditoria capacities, outside of the Capital, in the Country.
Ticket pricing, looking at Odeon’s website, is the most complicated I have seen anywhere! There are uplift charges for peak times, blockbuster movies, 3D movies and two different rates for upgraded seating. :/ Pricing is almost three times higher than at Vue, Oxford which whilst some distance from the city centre offers free parking!
Plans are available for this cinema as part of an application dated 2012 to alter/restep the circle for larger seating. (N.B. The circle had already been restepped over the original concrete in 2001.)
Included within the application is a “FLOOR FINISHES” document, from which:
Carpet – “ODEON Black Carpet” by OW Hospitality (“Quality Supplier of Axminster Carpets,” according to their UK website.)
Vinyl – DLW Armstrong Scala 55 Mountain Pine Dark Brown.
Obviously, these “house style” finishes are the same products used in other Odeons.
Also, the document “GA PLAN & SETTING OUT PLAN,” lists seating as follows:
“Movie magic gets a makeover” — Oxford Mail.
According to this article, published in 2012, £1m was spent on refurbishing the cinema, including £350,000 on the foyer.
Unfortunately, visible in the photo of the main auditorium is a floating screen incongrously jutting out in front of the proscenium…
Details of the work involved in adding this screen are available in a planning application dated 2009, “Listed Building Consent for internal works to insert girders and posts to project a larger screen forward of the proscenium arch in screen 1”.
For what it is worth, please see my comments in the photos section.