The monumental Odeon in the Hackney Rd opened on 27th July 1939 featuring Max Miller in Think Evans. This was the 124th Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatre to be built and one of eleven by architect Andrew Mather. Designed in the Art Deco style, it was more austere than some. The plain facade was covered in cream faiance tiles, adorned only by a vertical sign just off centre which originally had the Odeon name and an overhanging slab across two-thirds of the top of the building. Inside, seating was arranged in stalls (1,260) and circle (666). There were two large glass light boxes above the circle and decorative ribs across the ceiling with horizontal bands along the walls.
In 1961, the cinema screened its final programme featuring Ian Carmichael in Double Bunk and Johnny Biggs in Wind of Change on 20th May, before becoming the first Odeon to be converted to a Top Rank Bingo Club.
Both incarnations served as a vital community focus for generations for the people who lived in the surrounding streets until eventual closure on July 15th 2015. The building was sold to Jersey-based Hackney Property Holdings LLP for £4.5million. Subsequently, Mecca Bingo have been providing a minibus to ferry local residents to their club in Camden.
In the face of campaigns and a petition to list the Odeon, and demanding a replacement community asset, planning permission was granted last year by Hackney Council for demolition to construct a ten-storey block of luxury flats with just 20% ‘affordable’ housing despite the Borough’s policy of 50%.
All that leaves us is to take one last look around the empty building, courtesy of these photographs by Thomas Best, and say goodbye to this venerable place of public entertainment which has been cherished by so many residents of this corner of Bethnal Green for more than seventy-five years.
Odeon Hackney Rd in 1938
The interior in 1938
Top Rank Bingo Club in the sixties
Colour photographs copyright © Thomas Best
Forthcoming development by Jersey-based Hackney Property Holdings replacing Odeon Hackney Rd
You may like to read my interviews with members of the Hackney Rd Bingo Club
Sarah Ainslie’s Bingo Portraits
More of Sarah Ainslie’s Bingo Portraits
This post first appeared on Spitalfields Life | In The Midst Of Life I Woke To, please read the originial post: here