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Report - - Odeon, Cheltenham - March/April 2009 | Theatres and Cinemas | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Odeon, Cheltenham - March/April 2009



Hpipe

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#1
Some history:

The Odeon cinema in Cheltenham started life on 6th March 1933 as The Gaumont Palace. It was designed by William Edward Trent and built with a seating capacity of 1,774. Additional facilities included a café and a ballroom. In 1937 it became simply The Gaumont, before finally joining the Odeon chain in 1962. 1973 saw the division of the original picture house/theatre design into a 3 screen cinema, and a further division to seven screens occurred during the 90s. The cinema was built on the site of an old chapel. It’s said that many people refused to visit this venue when it opened for this reason.

The first film shown at the Gaumont Palace was Rome Express. On 5th November 2006, the Odeon closed its doors for the last time, redundant in the wake of a new 12 screen Cineworld outlet just 200m away. The last film to be screened was Saw 3.

Since 2006, the site has sat derelict. It’s subject to the usual local feelings that it is an eyesore and a waste of a beautiful old building, and rightly so. Unfortunately, despite the borough council refusing planning permission, a recent appeal overturned the decision, and work is likely to commence in the next month or so to convert it to restaurants and two nightclubs.

For me, this is an odd one. It’s probably the one single building that ignited my interest in UE, yet its one where I already knew, roughly speaking, what I would find inside. How naïve was I………? It was done and reported on a couple of years ago (http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=10329&highlight=cheltenham) but its certainly not the same place any more.

So, courageous and I, my partner in non-crime, set about nailing this bugger once and for all. We recce’d it on 3 or 4 separate occasions, with our plan changing, sometimes dramatically, each time. Then we finally got in, only to be totally scuppered by what had happened inside. In essence, our entry had positioned us in a spot in the building where only a very small part of it was accessible, due to the massive demolition that had already taken place. Obviously we made the best of that visit, but then recently returned better equipped. We got to almost every part of the building after that, but in truth, there’s not much to see anymore. There are very few clues to the former identity of this place left intact, and those that are will be gone very soon.

The building is formed, front to back, of three main parts. The front section, which housed the public entrance, foyer, offices and projection rooms, was built with a grand art deco façade. Here is it in its heyday:

(credit to Jeff, the website’s owner, on this) , and today
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In the middle is a concrete structure, with a steel roof, which housed the auditoriums/screens. The construction of this section gives very little clue to its age.

The internal work to strip the building back to its shell, and remove its cinema role has left huge empty voids in the middle part. This area was originally the upper section of Screen 1, then later screens 2 and 3.
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At the rear of the building is a taller, brick built structure, which housed the original theatre stage and workings.

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This part contains original features, but during the last 30 years of the building’s life this was never seen by the general public, and thus doesn’t really relate to its use as a cinema. Anyway:

Spiral staircases
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Huge extractor fan within a filter room for a very old a/c setup
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Original signage
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Roof access is possible on both the front and back sections
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Massive extraction on the front roof
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Nice windows in the emergency stairwells at the front. I remember coming down these after films on many many occasions, but never ever going up them!
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Unfortunately dickhead here didn’t charge the camera battery after an earlier trip, so that was my lot. Mr C took plenty more so they’ll no doubt follow.....

We came away with mixed feelings. The first impression was disappointment and sadness that the place had been gutted, but as our time in there went on, we realised that its just a great building, and that having it giving it a role as a home to something new, as opposed to total demolition, was actually a good thing. A rare thumbs up for progress I'd say.

Cheers
 

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