Monday, 31 March 2014

Odeon Theatre Dalston

About fifteen years ago I came across a batch of old cinema programmes in a now-gone junk shop on the Brecknock Road in London N7. Among the treasures was this one - a 16 pager for the Dalston Odeon dating from August 1939, just a few months after it had opened to the public.

This cinema was set back off the Kingsland Road, on the junction of Tottenham and Stamford Roads, on the other side of the road from Saturday's street market (for more on the Kingsland Waste market - and with another old film spin - please see my post in May 2013: Vaudeville). 

The 18.5 x 24.5 cms sized programme is entirely printed in brown on white, with a lavish collection of photos and illustrations highlighting future presentations, plus there are seven advertisements for local businesses.

the illustration on the cover is NOT the Dalston Odeon (it's actually the flagship Odeon in Leicester Square)

This WAS the Dalston Odeon

It could pack in some 2,000 people on a busy night, and in the programme notes the cinema proudly boasted "a spacious Car Park adjoining the theatre" which was free to its patrons, Deaf Aids "for those patrons whose hearing is impaired" (again free of charge), and continuous performances everyday from 1.45pm (5.30pm on Sundays).

cinema viewing in August 1939, the last month of peace before the outbreak of WW2

"we shall be pleased to mail you a copy of this programme each month upon receipt of your name and address at the Box Office"

The Dalston Odeon screened 40 years worth of films until closing down in 1979. It was demolished five years later - making space for flats.

The building and this business, whose full-page advert appeared on the inside cover of the programme, are now both long gone too

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

King's Cross Cinema

Here's a snapshot in time - a very well preserved folded pink card measuring 7.5 x 12.5 cms. It's the programme for the King's Cross Cinema in the month of May 1932. Many of the films on offer have since gently slipped out of public consciousness in the intervening 82 years between then and now. Not so the marvelous 'Frankenstein' which was screened for 6 days that May!

Prices (including Tax) on the back page

London's King's Cross Cinema was a whopping 1390 seater. It was set to open in 1914, but a government ban on building places of amusement during the First World War halted its completion. It eventually premiered its first films which included 'The Chinese Puzzle' in 1920. The cinema retained the same name up to 1952 when it became the Gaumont for a decade, until it was re-branded again, and saw out the end of the 1960s as an Odeon.

Into the 1970s, and the story of this Cinema building begins to get rather intriguing. Under a new name - the Cineclub - there was a short-lived stretch presenting uncensored adult films, until reverting back to the original King's Cross Cinema which then brought in all-night rock concerts at the weekends. The very first was on 2nd June 1972, when Barclay James Harvest took to the stage, accompanied by a 40 piece symphony orchestra. One particular show on Saturday 12th July 1972, has attained rock 'n' roll cult status as it's where the cover photo of the 'Raw Power' LP was taken at a gig by Michigan's 'Iggy Pop and the Stooges'.

This phase of the building's life ended in 1975, and it appears that it was shuttered up until 1980 when it was taken over by an environmental group who converted the site into a 'Primatarium'. This was a kind of audio-visual presentation of the world of primates in their natural habitats - complete with massive 'Rousseau-esque' murals painted on the interior walls of the building.

This bizarre experiment was short-lived, and cinema returned once again in 1981 with the arrival of London's classic repertory cinema club 'The Scala' from Tottenham Street in the West End. For some 12 years the Scala became legend - with its feast of double bills, themed all-night shows and eclectic programming. Until it was embroiled in several court cases over the unauthorised screening of Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange' - plus facing a general demise in film going (with the increasing availability of VHS films), and the lure of a burgeoning rave/dance culture. Since the 90s, the Scala has continued as a nightclub and a music venue...

Wouldn't it be fascinating to see all these films below over the period of a month. I wonder if prints of them all still survive?

Interior spread, on view in May 1932 at the King's Cross Cinema