The New Victoria Cinema (latterly the Odeon), Bradford stands mouldering because its owners have pointedly neglected it for ten years and English Heritage has seen insufficient evidence to list it and secure its survival.
The Paramount Cinema, Oxford Street, Manchester, which finally closed in 2004, is in an even worse state.
Like the New Victoria, Bradford, it was opened in 1930 – in this case the very first Paramount cinema in the British provinces. Designed by the Paramount house-architects, Frank T Verity and his son-in-law Sam Beverly, it seated 2,920 in an elaborate baroque auditorium with a Wurlitzer organ which survives in Stockport Town Hall [http://www.voxlancastria.org.uk/ltot01.htm]. Certainly it’s been knocked about a bit: it was repeatedly subdivided in 1973, 1979 and 1992, and photographs show that the removal of the organ did no favours to the organ case.
The developers, Manchester & Metropolitan, carried out what they described as “limited and entirely lawful exposure works in anticipation of the forthcoming redevelopment”. This involved ripping out easily accessible decorative features and discouraged English Heritage from listing.
In fact, thanks to YouTube, it’s clear that a substantial amount of the original auditorium decoration remains: go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3E8RPd0JFo&feature=fvw and fast-forward to 2:45.
Websites discussing the potential future of the Paramount include http://www.cinema-theatre.org.uk/press/pr02_2007.htm, http://www.g7uk.com/photo-video-blog/20070519-manchesters-odeon-cinema-subjected-to-a-damaging-systematic-and-methodical-assault-to-prevent-preservation.shtml and – a more matter-of-fact view – http://www.aidan.co.uk/article_paramount_manchester.htm.
The parallels with Bradford are instructive. A hopelessly large auditorium is subdivided in the 1960s to maintain its commercial viability; by the end of the twentieth century the game is up and redevelopment is seen as the answer. Finding a creative solution to preserve such a building is understandably off the developer’s script while its true architectural and historical significance is hidden.
Yet both these erstwhile Odeons stand within a potentially lucrative cultural quarter. The Bradford building is next to the Alhambra Theatre and is within sight of the National Media Museum. The Cinema Theatre Association Bulletin (September/October 2010) suggests that the Manchester Odeon may have a future use as a supplementary conference venue alongside Manchester Central, the former G-Mex.
Alternatively, the building next door is a J D Wetherspoon’s pub – called, suggestively, the Paramount.
Probably the last urban-explorer images of the Paramount, taken shortly before demolition started in January 2017), are at https://www.28dayslater.co.uk/odeon-nee-paramount-cinema-manchester-jan-2017.t107194.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Fun Palaces: the history and architecture of the entertainment industry please click here.