In the summer of 1939 Blackpool ignored the possibility of war.
The huge new Art Deco, 2,920-seat Opera House auditorium opened in the Winter Gardens, starring George Formby Jnr (who was paid £1,000 a week) in a review entitled Turned Out Nice Again.
A short distance down Dickson Road the Odeon Cinema, designed by W Calder Marshall for Harry Weedon, opened on May 6th 1939. Its capacity of 3,088 made this the largest auditorium in the company’s chain, bigger even than the flagship cinema in London’s Leicester Square: it cost £82,500.
This was one of the relatively few 1930s Odeons intended to have an organ, a magnificent five-manual Compton instrument, big enough to stand comparison with the Wurlitzers in the Tower and Winter Gardens. Oscar Deutsch disapproved of theatre organs: he thought they were a waste of money.
As it happened, the Odeon organ was not delivered until after war broke out, and was apparently bombed in the railway sidings at Blackpool. Eventually, in 1946, the Conacher organ from the Ritz, Southend, was installed.
The Blackpool Odeon was tripled in October 1975 and closed in 1998.
It stood derelict for some years, until Basil Newby recreated it magnificently as Funny Girls [http://www.funnygirlsonline.co.uk], refreshing the meaning of the expression “holiday camp”.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on seaside architecture, Away from it all: the heritage of holiday resorts, Beside the Seaside: the architecture of British coastal resorts, Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage and Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage, please click here.
The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2013 Lancashire’s Seaside Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.