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The long life of the recently demolished Preston Odeon cinema

Posted on - 3rd December, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Nostalgia, Preston City Centre, Preston News
The original frontage of the New Victoria Cinema Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The original frontage of the New Victoria Cinema Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The now-demolished ex-Odeon cinema on Church Street has a long and fascinating history. It opened in 1928 as the New Victoria Theatre and was in a prime location in the centre of town opposite Miller Arcade. The building was under construction when it was taken over by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres. As a result, the original auditorium was converted to a crush hall, and a new much larger building was constructed behind.

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Sumptuous cinema

The auditorium in 1928 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The auditorium in 1928 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The stall area of this sumptuous cinema could seat 1,450 with another 670 in the balcony. There was also a built-in café. 1928 saw the beginning of talking pictures, however, the cinema was not fitted for sound. Instead, there was a grand Wurlitzer organ, that was mounted on a lift. It would rise dramatically before a film showing.

As occasionally happened with silent movie premieres, a full orchestra was provided on opening day. When the building was derelict an urban exploration group shot a video inside the building and some of the original plasterwork could be seen.

Watch Abandoned Odeon Cinema (Preston) on YouTube

Some of the original plasterwork in 2022 Pic: The Secret Vault
Some of the original plasterwork in 2022 Pic: The Secret Vault

The 1950s to the 1970s 

The Odeon cinema in the early 1970s Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Odeon cinema in the early 1970s Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The cinema was soon taken over by Gaumont British Theatres, however it was not renamed the Gaumont until 1952. Major restructuring took place in 1962 when an upper floor was created for a 1,229 seat cinema. The original auditorium was converted into a fully sprung ballroom with a maple floor and this became the Top Rank Suite. Later the café was converted into another cinema.

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The Top Rank Suite and cinema

The Odeon cinema in the mid 1960s Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Odeon cinema in the mid 1960s Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Top Rank Suite was the name given to a chain of nightclubs that operated in the 1960s. They were owned by the Rank organization. Rank also made and distributed films – hence the Top Rank Ballrooms, as they were known, were often attached to cinemas.

Dancers in the 1960s Pic: The Vin Sumner Collection
Dancers in the 1960s Pic: The Vin Sumner Collection

The derelict building in 2022

One of the ex Odeon cinemas in 2022 Pic: The Secret Vault
One of the ex Odeon cinemas in 2022 Pic: The Secret Vault

The cinema closed in 1992 and the upstairs cinema was boarded up. The building was used as a nightclub with various names, until the last club closed in 2006. The building lay derelict until arsonists set the structure on fire and it was demolished in 2022.

Read more: Facade of Preston’s former Odeon cinema will be saved

Read more: Dig into more Preston history with Geoffrey

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