• All Odeon cinemas were designed by the office of the Birmingham architect Harry Weedon
  • The main auditorium could seat 2000 people comfortably
  • The Odeon hosted the European premiere of Sir Richard Attenborough’s biopic of Charlie Chaplin

Entertaining the nation

The Odeon was built during the “Golden Age of Hollywood” when actors like Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo were popular with cinema audiences. In the 1930s there were over 25 cinemas in Leicester and probably this one, built in 1938 by the Odeon organisation, was the grandest. All Odeon cinemas were designed by the office of the Birmingham architect Harry Weedon and those from the 1930s had a modern art deco look to them. Leicester’s Odeon could seat 2,000 in comfort.

The main auditorium under construction, 1937. Affective Digital Histories

Changing tastes

By the 1960s the Odeon had adapted to changing tastes and was hosting music concerts as well as showing films. The Rolling Stones played at the “Odeon Theatre” in 1964 and, in 1965, the Tamla Motown Revue featured the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, and Martha and the Vandellas. In 1993 the Odeon hosted the European première of Sir Richard Attenborough’s biopic of Charlie Chaplin.

An end and a beginning

By the 1980s the Odeon had been divided into four screens and was the only cinema in Leicester where people could book by telephone. In response to other, more modern, cinemas opening in the 1990s, the Odeon organisation built a new multiplex cinema at Freemans Common and the Odeon closed in 1997. For several years it stood empty until it was reopened in 2005 as “Athena”, an events venue that has restored the building to its former glory.

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Can be seen from the street

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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Leisure & Entertainment

Guild Hall Colton Street

The Guild Hall was opened in 1909 by the Leicester Guild of the Crippled to provide a social centre for people with physical disabilities. As well as being “beautiful and commodious”, this Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau style building was very practical, being an early example of a structure that had been purposely designed to be fully accessible.

Abbey Park

In 1879 the Leicester Corporation purchased Abbey Meadows from the Earl of Dysart. One stipulation for the sale of the Meadows to the corporation was that it should later become ‘a public park or recreation ground for the enjoyment of the inhabitants of Leicester’.

Cook’s Temperance Hall & Hotel

In 1853 Thomas Cook built an impressive Temperance Hall and adjoining Temperance Hotel on Granby Street. The Temperance Hall was demolished in 1961, but the Hotel frontage (now 121 Granby Street) has survived, the upper two storeys retaining much of their original appearance.

Curve

Since opening, Curve has become a major producing theatre, creating critically acclaimed shows including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard (2017), Legally Blonde (2016) and Purva Naresh’s Pink Sari Revolution (2017).

Municipal Library

Designed by Edward Burgess, the new library could accommodate 40,000 books and up to 100 readers in the ground floor Reading Room. A separate Ladies´ Room was provided on the first floor and a Juvenile Lending Library in the basement.

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