A tale of two Odeons at Anglia Square

Norwich odeon cinema pic taken 2nd june 1971

The new Norwich Odeon cinema at Anglia Square before it opened a month later. Date: June 2, 1971. - Credit: Archant Library

It was 50 years ago when one came tumbling down and another rose from the ground. Both had the same name… ODEON.

Two events in what has become the most controversial and talked about part of Norwich – Anglia Square.

It was in 1938 when the cinema giant Oscar Deutsch turned his attention to Norwich and built the large Odeon on Botolph Street. With 2054 seats this was the largest north of London.

The Odeon cinema as it was when it was in Botolph Street.

The Odeon cinema as it was when it was in Botolph Street. The cinema had 2054 seats and when it opened on 7th February 1938 and it was said to be the biggest cinema north of London. - Credit: Archant Library

It was a huge centre of entertainment and several buildings, courts and yards were demolished to make way for it.

The enormous project provided work for companies across Norfolk and Suffolk and the result was described as: “A house of entertainment in every way worthy of Norwich. It is for YOU to say is that ambition has been realised.”

The grand opening was performed by Lord Mayor, Charles Watling, who said; “May this new Odeon begin a successful career of amusement, instruction and inspiration, that will burden men’s minds, widen their vision and lift their souls above the cares of daily life.”

Demolition of the Odeon cinema in Botolph Street as part of the Anglia Square redevelopment.

Old EDP archive photo captures a glimpse inside Odeon cinema in Botolph Street, Norwich as part of the Anglia Square redevelopment. Date: September 25, 1971 - Credit: Archant Library


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The music was provided by The Band of the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, the film was The Sky’s The Limit with Jack Buchanan and a collection was taken in aid of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

The cinema was described as having air purifying equipment which ensured a constant and steady supply of fresh, washed air – the most up-to-date in the country.

Demolition of the Odeon cinema in Botolph Street as part of the Anglia Square redevelopment

Inside the Odeon cinema in Botolph Street being demolished as part of the Anglia Square redevelopment. A replacement cinema was built in Anglia Square. Dated -- 25 September 1971 - Credit: Archant Library

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The latest aids for the deaf described as “sound reproducing apparatus” were fitted and the manager Samuel Newberry was on hand to make sure everyone had a day at the cinema to remember.

And so it continued, during the 1940s, 50s, 60s and then…

Demolition of the Odeon cinema in Botolph Street as part of the Anglia Square redevelopment.

A man at work during the demolition of the Odeon cinema in Botolph Street as part of the Anglia Square redevelopment. Date: September 25, 1971. - Credit: Archant Library

With the arrival of Anglia Square the original Odeon was demolished to be replaced by a new Odeon, half the size, which was designed by Norwich architects Alan Cooke & Partners.

The replacement 1016-seat Odeon cinema nearing completion that was built in Anglia Square

The replacement 1016-seat Odeon cinema nearing completion that was built in Anglia Square to replace the one in Botolph Street . The new cinema opened on July 8 1971. Date: December 5, 1970. - Credit: Archant Library

It was opened in July 1971 by “Miss Odeon,” 19-year-old Mary Flegg, chosen in a competition by our readers in the Eastern Evening News.

Miss Mary Flegg (Miss Odeon) officially opens the new Odeon at Anglia Square in Norwich 1971. 

Miss Mary Flegg (Miss Odeon) officially opens the new Odeon at Anglia Square, Norwich in 1971. - Credit: Archant Library

New Odeon cinema opening at Norwich. Picture: 8th July 1971

New Odeon cinema opening at Norwich. Picture: 8th July 1971 - Credit: Archant Library

Miss Mary Flegg (Miss Odeon" officially opens the new Odeon cinema in 1971.

New Odeon cinema opening at Norwich. Pictured: The actual opening was carried out by Miss Odeon. 19- year-old research assistant Miss Mary Flegg. of 59, Harwood Road, Lakenham, Norwich. She was chosen in a ballot of nearly 1000 readers of the "Eastern Evening News." Later she will he visiting Pinewood Studios and admitted last night she hoped to be seeing Sean Connery on the set there. Date: July 8 1971. - Credit: Archant Library

The first film shown was Valdez is Coming starring Burt Lancaster who sent a message of goodwill.

There were alterations over the years due to changing fortunes and three smaller auditoriums were built. The name changed to Hollywood in more recent times with our own “Movie Man” Trevor Wicks at the helm.

New Odeon cinema opening at Norwich. Picture: 8th July 1971

New Odeon cinema opening at Norwich. Picture: 8th July 1971 - Credit: Archant Library

New Odeon cinema at Anglia Square preview. Picture taken 5th july 1971

New Odeon cinema at Anglia Square preview. Picture taken 5th july 1971 - Credit: Archant Library

Odeon cinema at Anglia Square. Picture: 5th July 1971 

Odeon cinema at Anglia Square. Picture: 5th July 1971 - Credit: Archant Library

Today it is closed as we wait for the next chapter in the story of Anglia Square.

As for the Odeon in Norwich – head to a place where the factories were when the first Odeon opened… Riverside.


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