New Victoria / Gaumont / Odeon
Prince's Way (formerly New Victoria Street)
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Introducing Odeon Film Centre
The £370,000 conversion or 'twinning' of the former New Victoria/Gaumont was pretty unique in itself at that particular time in that the previously giant auditorium was split into three units. The former stalls area was converted into the Top Rank Bingo Club with capacity for over 1,000 players. This was the first such conversion in the Rank cinema chain to have a Bingo & Social Club under the same roof as a twinned cinema. The Bingo operation having been transferred from the Majestic (former Morley Street Picture House) a short distance away. The Bingo area was to open at the end of 1969 after the twin cinemas.
The upper part of the auditorium was levelled at front circle level and its giant width split into two separate fan-shaped auditoria with one significantly larger than the other. This side-by-side splitting of the original auditorium was the first in this country and only possible due to the exceptional width (150 feet at the rear of the stalls) of the original.
A complete new shell was built inside the old auditorium and damaging but not totally destroying all the original architecture. The false roof of the new shell is below the original New Victoria ceiling and dome, the steel frame of which still exists. Inside this shell two cinemas, Odeon 1 and 2 were created.
A new and enlarged entrance had been created for the Odeon twin cinemas in the same location as the original Ballroom entrance between the two towers. The entrance was to have a large illuminated canopy and a very large double width Read-o-Graph backlit advertising sign above. A new double staircase leading up to the new foyer following the natural curve of the original auditorium ending with a licensed bar in the former tea room area of the south tower. The lounge bar wall was decorated with bold 'op art' murals designed by Trevor Stone.
Contractors for the conversion . . .
In both auditoria the stepped seating extended downwards from the former New Victoria/Gaumont balcony level and over the old circle down to the new screens positioned in front of the original theatre proscenium opening (now bricked up) leaving the original stage area, grid and flytower unused and in tact. The original circle is largely in tact safe in a building void but it still accessible via an access door in a storeroom between Odeon 1 and the later Odeon 3 addition.
The proscenium opening of 34 feet with a festoon-type 13-line reefer curtain with batten lighting opened to a shallow stage only 8 feet deep. The 6-tower screen frame at 23ft 6ins high with overall screen size 33ft x 17ft 6ins. With 3-stop variable side and top masking giving 28ft x 15ft 7ins (1.75:1 aspect ratio) on widescreen and 32ft x 13ft 8ins (2.35:1) on 'Scope setting. For 70mm presentations the size was 32ft x 15ft 7ins. The projectionists log shows that for 16mm presentaions a screen size of 17ft 11ins x 13ft 6ins.
The newly constructed projection room at the highest rear point was 24ft wide x 15ft 3ins deep and 9ft 6ins high with two projectors for 35mm and 70mm with a throw distance of 104 feet and downward rake of 10 degrees.
Adjoining were projection staff toilet, battery and rectifier room which then connected with the new projection room for Odeon 2. Effectively these rooms were created in the rear of the balcony of the original New Victoria/Gaumont auditorium. Close to the Odeon 1 projection room was the original passenger lift adjacent to the north tower and now used for carrying equipment and films to the projection suite.
The front section of seating of 20 rows on gentle stepping again in four blocks with three aisles leading to a large flat carpeted area in front of the new stage with exits at either side. Total capacity of 1,200 including Pullman luxury seats at rear of front section and front of rear section.
The proscenium opening was virtually wall-to-wall at approx 50ft wide with wall-to-wall curtains comprising side legs and a festoon reefing curtain with batten lighting. The tower frame and screen with adjustable masking and overall size of 47ft wide x 20ft 6ins high giving 32ft x 17ft 7ins on wide screen and 41ft 11ins x 17ft 7ins on 'Scope anamorphic projection.
The projection room at rear highest point was 22ft 10ins wide x 11ft 6ins deep at its mid-point and 10ft 6ins high with two ventilated circular downlights in roof. Access internally with Odeon 1 projection room also steps and door into Odeon 2 rear. Provision made for two projectors. Throw distance was 147 feet with a downward rake of 6 degrees.
The projectionists logbook shows that on Monday 29th April 1991 new screens were fitted in both Odeon 1 and 2 but it was found that the larger screen of Odeon 2 was marked and unacceptable so on Thursday 6th June 1991 a replacement screen was installed.
Odeon 1More 70mm Super Panavision films were shown, eg. 'Oliver' in December 1969 and each lasting for a short season but the 70mm facility was eventually withdrawn as the supply of new 70mm prints dwindled.
Derek Mann was the manager of the new Odeon twins, he had previously been manager of the Gaumont immediately prior to its conversion.
A Social Gaffe!
A feature of Odeon 1 and 2 at its opening was that it pioneered (at least outside London) the concept of advance booking for a cinema seat - quite a novelty in 1969. However historical research shows that several Bradford suburban cinemas had a booking system for their 'best' seats on Saturday nights as far back as the 1920's. The new Odeon provided a cloakroom for patrons in the new foyer though this did not last very long and soon became the handyman's room. Additionally, the Odeon had its own licensed bar in the former tea room/café (in the south octagonal tower facing the Alhambra) exclusively for its patrons.
Later, Odeon 2 had its seating capacity reduced to 1000 to meet new fire regulations.
1982 More Flood Damage
The Bingo & Social Club closed for a few days for a massive clean-up but the Odeon Film Centre upstairs continued without interruption as power supplies and access were not affected.
Dolby Surround Sound
In February 1989 new screen tabs (curtains) were fitted in both Odeon 1 and 2 and on 15th November 1989 Odeon 1 was enhanced by the installation of new Lansing JBL8330 surround speakers for the Dolby system.
Adding Odeon 3
In April exterior re-roofing work and internal lightweight construction work of dividing the space to form auditorium with wooden raked floor, proscenium for screen, projection room and ancillary rooms. A suspended ceiling was fitted but the ornate wall pilasters of the former ballroom were retained and gilded as part of the new decor. Between the pilasters where once were huge showpiece mirrors now removed and replaced by blue drapes to match the blue screen curtains and blue patterned wall-to-wall carpeting.
Above the new white false ceiling was the original and spectacular ornate decorated ceiling with glass roof lights of the ballroom left virtually untouched. By early June the projection room was fitted out with a single projector and platter with plain Dolby surround sound and the 25ft x 11ft 5ins screen and frame installed.
The blue-themed auditorium now had 244 rich red seats arranged in three blocks with two aisles. The side blocks angled slightly towards the screen and luxury seats were included at the rear of the centre block making Odeon 3 a comfortable and more intimate cinema.
Concurrent with this conversion was the creation of a 'bridge' from first floor foyer to the corridor leading to Odeon 3 and extensive redecoration of foyers, a new larger shop space and refurbished licensed bar.
Contractors for Odeon 3 conversion were . . .
Odeons 1, 2 and 3 were now to be totally non-smoking cinemas.
Odeon 3 - Gala Opening
"Crocodile Dundee II" - 1988 Australia/USA Color 110mins.A celebrity at the opening was actress Caroline Munro, one of James Bond's girls in 'The Spy Who Loved Me' and former '3-2-1' ITV hostess along with a specially invited audience.
The remaining Odeon 1 and 2 closed that evening to give maximum prominence to the new cinema's gala opening. The manager was still Derek Mann who had been in post since its late Gaumont days.
Thereafter as an Odeon triple unit it has shown most of the major top films to Bradford audiences including special lettings to the Asian community for their own films and visits by 'Bollywood' screen stars.
Later managers of the Odeon triple have included Dale Burton, Cliff Baillie and Phil Westhead.
Odeon used for Church Worship
7-Screen Multiplex Proposals
By 1994 revised plans showed Odeon 1 split into two with screens in front and rear sections. Similarly, the larger Odeon 2 split into three screen with a single screen in the front section and the rear section divided into two side-by-side screens. The proposals did not develop any further.
In the late 1990s Rank were looking at other ideas involving the Leeds Headrow Odeon whiich, if closed, could be seen as a prime development site. meanwhile Gallaghers were building the new complex at Thornbury roundabout which included a 13-screen multiplex. The original cinema operator withdrew from the scheme and Odeon took the lease resulting in the swift closure and sale of both the Leeds and Bradford Odeons and the cinema operation to be concentrated on the Thornbury site.
Senior Citizen Film Shows
In fact, the shows and their simple concept were so successful they have been copied by many other Odeon cinemas across the country. Bradford was the first in exploring this new field and many of its regular senior citizen supporters also had fond memories of when it was the New Victoria and Gaumont.
The final Senior Citizen performance on the morning of Wednesday 28th June 2000 was preceded an electronic organ recital and sing-a-long by Dr. Arnold Loxam once a resident "Mighty Wurlitzer" organist (click here for more details of the Wurlitzer organ) back in the New Victoria/Gaumont days. The large audience in Odeon 2 gave Arnold (then a sprightly octogenarian) a standing ovation then settled down to enjoy the film . . .
"The Sixth Sense" - 1999 USA Technicolor 107 mins.This nostalgic finale achieved much press, radio and television coverage much to the annoyance of Odeon/Rank senior management who preferred a quiet closure - clearly they had totally underestimated the feelings of local people who wanted to finish in style.
Since the closure of the Odeon triple, senior citizen shows have continued at the new Odeon 13-screen multiplex at Thornbury and also at the nearby Pictureville cinema in the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television.
In the final week the Odeon's three screens were showing . . .
"Chicken Run" - 2000 UK Technicolor 84 mins.The very last film to be shown was "Chicken Run" in Odeon 2 (the largest auditorium) on Sunday 2nd July 2000. An invited guest in the audience was 77 year old Norman Scurrah who as a 7-year old boy had been brought to the opening of the New Victoria in 1930. Mr Scurrah completed his cinema hat-trick by being a guest at the opening of the new Odeon 13-screen multiplex at Thornbury the following week.
A touching finale was outside on the giant Read-o-Graph display sign above the entrance with the message . . .
. . . and the future?
Equally there are many who feel this building should be saved and restored to its former self by stripping out all the internal conversion work and restoring the original 3000+ seat muti-purpose theatre/cinema/ concert hall and conference centre and large enough to attract big-name orchestras, bands and world class performers on their UK tours that our present city theatre and halls cannot accommodate. After all, Sheffield has seen the light and has invested in a multi-million Pound refurbishment of its City Hall and retained the dance hall underneath as was demanded by its citizens.
This is Bradford's last chance to save the building and recreate a prestige showpiece building of which the city can again be proud and to compliment the Alhambra and St George's Hall and so attract more visitors to our city.
The Bradford Odeon Rescue Group (BORG) was set up in 2004 to liase with Bradford Centre Regeneration Company and Bradford Council to represent the many thousands of people who wish to save and restore the building and its fight still continues in 2010.
Origins of the Cinema Names
Local tales that the Bradford New Victoria was named after the nearby statue of Queen Victoria and Victoria Square are quite erroneous. New Victoria Street was named after the newly built cinema as the street was previously called Brewery Street when Whittaker's Brewery was on the site.
Another rumour was that New Victoria was so called to distinguish it from the Victoria cinema further up Thornton Road at Girlington. This is likewise incorrect! Interestingly the Girlington cinema was actually advertising itself in the Telegraph & Argus as New Victoria on the very day that the city centre New Victoria opened but soon changed to just calling itself Victoria Girlington.
Having explained all that, most Bradford folk simply called their new theatre "New Vic" for short and that affectionate name is still talked and written about today.
Odeon - Based on the Latin 'Odeium' and Greek 'Odeion' as in the famous Odeion of Herodes Atticus, the huge open air theatre at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. It had been used earlier as a theatre name, eg. Odeon in Paris. A business friend of Deutsch had also seen the name Odeon in Tunis and recommended it particularly as it started with the initials of Oscar Deutsch. Thus the name was adopted by Oscar Deutsch (of Birmingham) founder of the Odeon Cinemas circuit.
The name Odeon has been jokingly used as an acronym for "Oscar Deutsch Entertains (or Entertaining) Our Nation" and as such is fairly well known. The fact is that the first Odeon at Perry Barr was opened before the chain of cinemas grew and long before someone thought of the acronym which actually turned out to be quite appropriate in later years. After the death of Oscar Deutsch in 1941 the Odeon circuit was sold to J. Arthur Rank and later joined with Gaumont to become CMA - Circuit Management Association and the largest circuit in the country.
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