Report - - Old Odeon/Regal cinema, Colchester, Essex - October 2014 | Theatres and Cinemas | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Old Odeon/Regal cinema, Colchester, Essex - October 2014


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Old Odeon/Regal cinema, Colchester, Essex - October 2014


This had been on my list for too long, unsure why as from what I could see, it was absolutely trashed and pretty much covered in faeces. But despite this I persevered and I'm glad I did. Despite it being trashed and a bit of a dump, it was pretty nice, loved the explore and it was definitely a long anticipated one! Been on my list for around a year.

As always, pictures at the end, enjoy.


The old Odeon cinema was formerly the Regal cinema. It was designed by Cecil Masey, a well-known cinema architect, and built in 1931. It has a Spanish-style gabled front and originally had an 'atmospheric' interior and included a café, Wurlitzer organ, and full stage facilities, with flanking shops on the ground-floor frontage.

It opened in February 1931, originally, with an Atmospheric style interior and seating 1,446, it was built for the local David Agar circuit. The designs by architect Cecil Masey also featured a café, and it was equipped with a Wurlitzer 2Manual/5Ranks organ and full stage facilities. Taken over by the County Cinemas chain in March 1935, they were taken over by the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd. in 1938. The Regal cinema was closed in 1944, when it was damaged by a fire, and it remained closed for three months while repairs were carried out. It was renamed 'Odeon' in September 1961. The building was extensively remodelled in 1964; 10 years later the interior was completely reconstructed to provide three screens, and it became the Odeon film centre; a fourth screen was added in 1987 and two more in 1991 when alterations to the building gave a 30 per cent increase in seating capacity.

The old dressing rooms were used as a base for Hospital Radio Colchester from 1975 to 1990. In 1992 the Odeon was the only cinema in Colchester. Later, three additional screens were added, bringing the total to six. The cinema then closed on Sunday, October 13, 2002 when Odeon relocated to a new purpose built 8-screen multiplex nearby in Head Street.

Live performances were presented at the Regal/Odeon as well as films - for example, on the 8th September 1964, the Rolling Stones played two concerts here! The interior was subdivided in 1974 and the cinema closed in 2002. Now empty, the building was put up for sale in March 2012 ('... Colchester's former Odeon cinema is up for sale with a price tag of £1.5 million ...', 6th March, Essex County Standard). James Bettley, an architectural historian, describes it as 'A distinctive building and an increasingly rare survival'. The old cinema is referred to in the prestigious architectural guide 'The buildings of England: Essex', written by Niklaus Pevsner in 1954 and updated by James Bettley in 2007.

Cecil A Masey LRIBA (1880-1960) designed a large number of cinemas in England and was also joint architect in 1937, with famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, of the iconic National Theatre on the South Bank in London. He also designed the Phoenix Theatre in London.

The building plans of the old Odeon cinema are held by the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford; they were produced by Masey for D Ager and others (owners), in association with builders W. Chambers and Son and Pitchers Construction Co. Ltd.

The old Odeon cinema in Colchester has a well-documented history, with a section in 'On Screen Colchester: The Story of Colchester's Cinemas'.

There is a film documentary, c 1930, of the building of the Colchester Regal cinema, held by the East Anglian Film Archive: http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/212013

There is also some footage of Crouch Street, including the cinema, taken in 1961: http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/212940

The cinema's Wurlitzer organ (Opus 1840) survives and its story is posted at http://www.theatreorgans.co.uk/features/sinhils/Opus1840.html - made in 1928 in the US, it was installed in the Regal in 1931 and stayed there until 1963.

The cinema played a significant role in people's lives before television. It is possible that more people went into the old Odeon than any other building in the town. Eric Rudsdale, the wartime diarist of Colchester, recorded his visit to the Regal; also see the personal recollections in 'New Regal brought welcome boost to the building industry' - http://www.gazette-news.co.uk/news/letters/9471252.New_Regal_brought_wel... and 'A Young Boy's War in Addlestone and Ardleigh' by h albion, part of the BBC's WW2 People's War project, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/03/a2045503.shtml


Theatres trust archives: http://www.theatrestrust.org.uk/resources/theatres/show/98-odeon-colchester


Apart from the obvious muck, dirty and scummy rotting boards that have plastered the front façade, the only concern or two I'd have is the damp and maybe the cracks, it doesn't look like it's subsidence as such (at least I hope not) but it's very crumbly and you can see the crack relatively clearly. Although this probably just the damp having it's affect on the external walls.

Inside it's relatively similar, from what I can gather the original 1930's ceiling has decayed more and a gaping whole has surfaced towards the front. The wooden boards are surprisingly strong and don't seem to have rotten as much as you'd expect, the lower levels haven't flooded and the only major let downs were the lack of seats and all the rubbish on both, the outside, and in the screens. Rubbish as in, decaying pigeon and pigeon poo, cider bottles and prams. As far as I could see, the only graffiti is around the front, on the windows.

A building still possible to renovate, but I assume the cost would be phenomenal. Especially if they have to first secure £1.5 Million to buy the place before work even starts.


The future of this once thriving building has remained uncertain for some time. The owner had bought the site a while ago and submitted plans to convert it into a night club in 2008 (what an original idea! :rolleyes:), he was then refused the application and begun looking at options of demolition and re-development into housing. (http://www.gazette-news.co.uk/news/9457694.Owner_of_old_Odeon_in_Colchester_says_he_may_pull_it_down/)

COLCHESTER’S former Odeon cinema is likely to be demolished and the site redeveloped.

Steve Peri, owner of the rundown Crouch Street building says he has abandoned plans to convert the old building into a giant nightclub.

Instead he is considering other options, such as building shops and homes on the site.

The entrepreneur says with local clubs such as Route closing because of dwindling trade, he no longer feels a large nightclub would be viable.

He explained: “To make the Odeon cinema into a nightclub, as it is, is not worth it.

“We’re looking at other projects at the moment – maybe putting flats there or knocking it down, or maybe putting a bar and nightclub there, but not a superclub with a restaurant.

“It’s going to cost quite a bit. We’re talking probably about 25 to 30 flats and retail units, plus underground parking.

“We’re working on it at the moment and hope by the summer we can come up with a decision.â€

The cinema opened in 1931 and is not a listed building, though it is on Colchester Council’s local list of notable buildings.

Its fabric has gradually deteriorated since it closed as a cinema in 2002.

Steve Levy, of Victor Hawkins Jewellers, said he would be happy to see the cinema go.

He felt Colchester Council should have taken action to keep it in better shape.
Then, in October 2013, plans were submitted to re-develop the site, demolishing all of it, including the front façade.

The facade of the building is set to be demolished and a new one re-built, albeit identical (we assume to allowed large construction vehicles through to the site).
Its heart will be removed and replaced by a large imposing glass windowed building that will dominate the skyline of Colchester. This will not be in keeping with the local archecture of Britain’s oldest recorded town.
Locals opposed the pans and began a petition: http://www.change.org/p/help-us-save-the-old-odeon-cinema-in-crouch-street-from-demolition


A NEW vision for Colchester's old Odeon cinema site has been revealed by developers.

Plans to build a hotel and apartment complex have been radically altered.

Revised plans have ditched the hotel element and set the luxury apartments away from Crouch Street around a courtyard.

The Art Deco façade of the former cinema will be kept and restored, and developers say once planning permission work can begin immediately.
A few articles have been posted in attempt to convince the locals it will help the community: http://www.gazette-news.co.uk/news/11249827.Developer_reveals_how_Colchester_Odeon_redevelopment_will__rejuvenate__Crouch_Street/


What is supposed to be happening with the site:


As far as I can tell, Colchester council have yet to confirm the plans, and will decide within the next 4-6 weeks.

My visit

I'd read the past reports for about a year, so I was studying them to see what I could do different, how I could get in, and how I could find myself around. A mate wanted to come along with me again for some time and I suggested this after he saw a few pics from the ABC cinema in Southend, ever since then I've wanted to get into another cinema, and this one was the one I desperately wanted to say I had done before it's finally gone.

Access was thoroughly enjoyable, I'm not sure why, but it was pretty easy and just relaxed. Externally, it looks quite aged and very derelict, but is very characteristic. We had a bit of a look around first of all, found our way in and had a very relax explore (apart from the pigeons of course, but it's a derelict cinema, there will be pigeons), enjoyed spying on the public in Crouch St as they wandered past oblivious. Wandered round a bit more, then headed it.


This hadn't been reported since 2012 I believe, and thought, for those that went, it might be nice to see it again. I tried to get different pictures, or similar pictures but maybe with different lighting, just to try and get something different I suppose!

I hope you enjoy, my camera was messing me about and I was getting rather annoyed with it. I don't know what's wrong with it, but it's annoying as. :rolleyes:

A few externals



A shot from inside looking out


3 staircases


Left all light natural in this shot


The main ceiling


My favourite shot of the day


Wall décor


Old organ keys


A broken window


A room at the front


The section below the roof


A remaining projector, I could be wrong, Speed will correct me if I am!


Nice green colour on that wall




28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
nice pics mate the remains of the projector looks like a cinemacannica base and a kalee president arc lamphouse


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Thanks for all the comments, get down there soon if you fancy a trip, might not be too long until it's gone. :thumb


28DL Member
28DL Member
Just round the corner from me.. May have to give this a look soon!

Nice report and enjoyed the pics..


"Take only pictures, leave only footprints"
28DL Full Member
Nice! is this place still there?

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