The Odeon was built more than 80 years ago as a 1600-seat ‘super cinema’. It was divided into multiple screens in the 1970s and finally closed in 2007. The brick exterior is typical of the time and has changed little since it opened in 1936, but interior alterations have meant that only a few areas still retain their Art Deco features.
The historic nature of the site is further enhanced by the presence of Roman remains just below the surface.
In the 1930s Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon cinemas used distinctive modern architecture and design to give identity to this rapidly growing chain of venues across the UK. Odeon cinemas adopted the Art Deco style which had originated in the USA. At the same time, the introduction of sound had revolutionised film and cemented Hollywood’s dominance of the rapidly growing cinema industry.
At the time, the siting of a new cinema within the walls of Chester was seen as controversial, and the decision
to face the building in brick, rather than the more typical glazed tile, was made by the city’s planners as a result of concerns over the impact of the building on its historic setting.
All Odeon cinemas were professionally photographed during their construction and on completion, and we therefore have a unique record of the original condition of much of the Chester building which can be used to guide us where restoration is proposed.
The Odeon was built close to the Northgate which has existed since Roman times. Just below the floor of the Odeon we have unearthed evidence of the Roman city and the archaeological investigation of the site will be an important phase in the construction of the project.