Odeon Cinema, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent - July 2023
Hanley Odeon opened on the 13th of February 1938 with "Educated Evans", it was one of the original cinemas in the Odeon Theatres chain. The site was formally occupied by the Grand Theatre, designed by Frank Matcham which burnt to the ground in 1932.
The cinema was designed by the Harry W. Weedon Partnership architectural practice as were almost all of the new build Odeon cinemas, which were being built at rapid pace across the country at the time. It follows the same classic art deco stylings with a fin tower to the left hand side of the foyer building. The auditorium is positioned at a right angle to the foyer and fills the plot of land between Upper and Lower Foundry Streets.
Seating was provided for 1,036 in the stalls and 544 in the circle. The interior was decorated in the standard Odeon style, and originally featured a fully concealed lighting system within the auditorium. The interior was modernised in the 1960's, with the auditorium being repainted and the foyer décor simplified.
The Rank Organisation closed the Odeon on the 15th of November 1975, the last film being Tommy. The Odeon name was transferred to the nearby Gaumont cinema (formerly, and now once again Regent Theatre), which was a much bigger venue so presumably considered to be the more profitable of the two.
After closure the building was taken over by the ceramic firm Johnson Brothers who used it as warehousing, the majority of the auditorium was stripped out around this time before suffering a fire in 1982. Throughout the 1990's the whole building was completely derelict.
Around 1999, a bar opened in the foyer area, and in 2003 the auditorium was remodelled and opened as a Chicago Rock Café. The foyer venue changed names several times, before both venues closed permanently during 2020.
A planning application was submitted without success in 2021 to demolish the auditorium and build a new residential development on the site retaining the foyer.
Conveniently Odeon commissioned photographer John Maltby to document their estate during the 1930's so here is a photograph taken just prior to opening.
I'd heard various rumours about left over cinema bits from various parties over the years, usually from a friend of a friend that used to know someone that used to work there. I'd always tried to not get my hopes up too much, but was very eager to see it once an opportunity came around.
As is usually the case with these things, they tend to not be straightforward to access, but after a number of sporadic visits over an eighteen month or so long period myself @MotionlessMike (who has kindly donated a few of the photographs below) did finally achieve success. We popped back a week or two later with @dweeb, whilst the fourth member of the original attempt @Humpa has disgracefully still not set foot in the place...
Externally the building isn't all that different to when it was built, aside from some changes to the door ways. The main noticeable difference is how much it's neighbour overshadows and diminishes the fin.
The interior of the foyer is unfortunately an absolute wreck, hence the lack of photos, any original features are long gone and the remaining modern bar is heavily water damaged as the roof is badly leaking.
The bulk of the auditorium space is taken up by the remains of Chicago's, and essentially everything you see is a little over twenty years old.
As you move into the back of house areas, this is where things start to get a bit more interesting. The first floor area of the club contains the random offices and locker rooms that you would expect, but this area was formerly the lobby and bar area for the circle, through one of the doorways you're greeted by the sight of a nice carpeted stairway with panelled walls and a bit of original handrail that provides access to the circle. The front portion of the circle has been crudely hacked away during the remodelling but around two thirds still survives.
The circle has been used for storing all manner of club related junk, but fortunately some interesting items remain such as some light fittings, vague outlines of the original wall décor and a nice big ventilation grille.
The remainder of the auditorium is sheeted off from the circle, beyond is stripped back to the bare structure - aside from a couple of bits of light fittings the space is totally gutted and just now contains the modern ductwork systems for the club below.
Fortunately the under circle void space provided plentiful treasure; advertising displays, cloakroom tickets and seating plans are generally not what you expect to find somewhere that closed as a cinema almost half a century ago. Naturally being in Stoke this space also contained various pottery related delights.
Unusually the projection suite sits on top of the circle in this cinema, as opposed to being behind. I can only assume that it is due to the compact nature of the site. These areas seem to have been mostly left untouched (apart from random mannequin), since the cinema closed. Original doors are still in situ, and just behind the blue paint is the nice original lettering identifying the room beyond.
As is to be expected anything of value/use was removed when the Odeon was closed, it was common place for them to relocate equipment to other cinemas. No projectors or mercury arc rectifiers for me, sadly. However, random remnants of film are always a nice thing to find.
The ventilation room was also very untouched, and contained various newspapers and other paraphernalia from the 1970's.
The fin standing in the shadow of Moorland House, the front stripe and the interior "lantern" used to be illuminated with neon lighting.
Inside the crumbling fin it was pleasant to find some neon tubing remains. Unfortunately the weather hasn't been kind to it, and the top element is threatening to fall off at some point.
An interior shot from Mr Maltby, what could have been 'eh!?