Cinematopia: UK picture palaces


Gaumont Palace

Built as a single screen with a "fin" down the front and a panoramic first-floor bar area, Cheltenham's cinema / theatre is still fondly remembered locally for playing host to the Beatles' first gig of their Autumn tour in 1963. Known as the Gaumont Palace when it opened in 1933, it became the Odeon in 1962 after the circuits merged. The chain tripled the cinema as usual in 1973 but modernisation (including removal of the fin) in 1987 subsequently subdivided the larger screens still further so that there are now seven screens in total in the building.

Cinematopia essential resource Cinema Treasures - Odeon Cheltenham.
* The Beatles Live (fan site).

Odeon Cheltenham hit the news in 2005 when a homeless man was found to have been living undisturbed behind one of the screens.

The cinema closed down permanently on 5th November 2006, a victim of the success of the new Cineworld multiplex nearby. Earlier, staff had been given one month to turn its fortunes around.

With its most distinguishing architectural features both inside and out destroyed over the years and given its prime location, the future of this building looks extremely precarious. The building is, however, in the process of being sold to an evangelical Christian church group. Such groups have a good record of preserving the architecture and even to a certain extent the ambience of the original building (witness the Savoy, Nottingham). Use of the site for a religious building is far from unprecedented: a town map of Cheltenham from the 1920s shows a church on the site.

Cheltenham Cinema's [sic] has photographs of the interior including blueprints of the building's current layout. In the closing-night photographs, the cinema looks fantastic; heartbreakingly, the author also includes evidence of the interior being ripped out.

1972 (© Odeon Cavalcade):
Odeon Cheltenham - 1972 (Odeon Cavalcade)

1985 (© Cinema Theatre Association):
Odeon Cheltenham - 1985 (Cinema Theatre Association)

Odeon Cheltenham - 2006 Odeon Cheltenham - 2006

The Daffodil

* The Daffodil restaurant (includes pictures of the spectacular interior)

A subsequent conversion to a restaurant has preserved the beautiful Art Deco-style Daffodil cinema in magnificent condition, complete with barrel-vaulted ceiling, balcony and proscenium. A photograph of the auditorium in its original form hangs in the foyer but really no imagination at all is required to picture it in its heyday. (See The Daffodil restaurant website for contemporary interior photographs.)

The Daffodil opened in 1922 and abruptly stopped showing films in September 1963. By that time, it was home to a thriving arthouse movie scene, including Cheltenham Film Society. Subsequently, it was used as a bingo hall and latterly (in common with many buildings in the neighbourhood) as an antiques shop. The sensitive and meticulous conversion to a restaurant was completed in 1998.

The Daffodil Cheltenham - 2006 The Daffodil Cheltenham - 2006 The Daffodil Cheltenham - 2006 (night)

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This page last updated 7th January 2007.