A tale of two Odeons at Anglia Square
- 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.
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.”
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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.
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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…
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.
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.
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.
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.