2nd June 1952

Odeon cinema opens for the first time

Jersey’s first Odeon cinema opened in Bath Street on 2 June 1952. With a capacity of almost 1,400 if every seat was sold, the art deco building with checkerboard panelled external walls, was a striking addition to St Helier. The checkerboard effect was accomplished by sanding down alternate blocks of stone rather than the more complex process of inserting stone of different types. The main structure of the building, behind the stone, is load-bearing concrete.

A single auditorium

In its original configuration, the cinema had just one screen, with seating on two levels. Initially, 640 seats were in the stalls, and 719 were in the circle. It had red seats and either tan or yellow walls. The distance from the projection room to the screen was 118ft, and although the building was only ever intended to be used to show films, it also incorporated a stage and dressing rooms should they ever be required.

The building was designed by Sir Thomas Penberthy Bennett, who had been Director of Bricks at the Ministry of Works during the Second World War. He had also overseen the development of Crawley New Town, close to Gatwick, and his practice had previously designed several other cinemas for Odeon, Rank and Gaumont.

A new owner

Its internal layout changed several times throughout its life, which allowed the owners to incorporate more screens, each targeting a smaller audience. However, this wasn’t enough to help it compete against Cineworld, which opened its own 10-screen venue in St Helier in 2004, and the Odeon closed its doors. Freedom Church bought the building in 2012.

Jersey’s Odeon was notable for being the first purpose-built cinema designed and constructed within the British Isles since before the Second World War, and by 2010, when the States of Jersey commissioned a report into its importance, it was the only complete example of an Odeon cinema from the early 1950s in existence. The building is now listed – a fact that has disrupted plans to either demolish or redevelop it since its closure.


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