Cinematopia: UK picture palaces
Worcester

Comment
Worcester has had a number of cinemas in its past. The largest one currently operating is a Vue multiplex with a total capacity of just under 1,400. Compare this to the original capacity of the Gaumont Worcester - in excess of 1,700, in a single screen. Such is the effect of the changing cinema exhibition market and thus a good explanation of why so many chains found it necessary to subdivide huge auditoria in the 1970s and onwards.

Odeon

* Odeon Cinemas

The Odeon Worcester has an unusual history. Located immediately opposite the Gaumont on Foregate Street (before Gaumont and Odeon merged) was the Silver Cinema (formerly the Empire), purchased by Oscar Deutsch in 1935. Deutsch obtained planning permission for a replacement cinema and demolished the Silver in 1939; however, by the time the structure of the new building, designed by Robert Bullivant, was completed, war had broken out and the building was requisitioned by the government. As a result of post-war shortages, the new Odeon did not open until 1950.

By then, perhaps, Odeon was more acutely aware of the value of publicising the design and modernity of their new premises and as such a good photographic record of the exterior and interior has survived (available at Odeon Cavalcade).

Source
* Mercia Cinema Society, September 2004.
* Worcester People & Places - article "The Cheshire Cheese Inn".

Comment
English Heritage Viewfinder has photographs of the Silver Cinema, Worcester, including its magnificent but decidedly narrow interior, from the John Maltby Collection.

1950 (© Odeon Cavalcade):
Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade) Odeon Worcester - 1950 (Odeon Cavalcade)

2007:
Odeon Worcester - 2007 Odeon Worcester - 2007

Gaumont

* Gala Bingo

The Gaumont Worcester was designed in 1935 by W. E. Trent and Ernest Tulley for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres with a capacity of 1,740. Once Odeon and Gaumont had merged, it became a Top Rank Bingo and eventually passed to Top Rank's competitor, Gala.

Source
* Mercia Cinema Society, September 2004.

1949 (© Odeon Cavalcade):
Odeon Worcester - 1949 (Odeon Cavalcade)

1955 (© Odeon Cavalcade):
Odeon Worcester - 1955 (Odeon Cavalcade)

2007:
Gaumont Worcester - 2007 Gaumont Worcester - 2007

Northwick

* The Northwick

The Grade-II listed Northwick Theatre, in the Worcester suburb of the same name, was built by Edmund Wilford in 1938 and soon converted for cinema use. It was subsequently used for bingo from 1966 before closing down in 1982 for a decade. It later became a live music and comedy venue. It has recently re-opened as a furniture shop.

The distinctive fin on its brick front facade scarcely gives a hint to the remarkable interior by John Alexander - the only one remaining by that prolific designer, recently restored to its original colour scheme by English Heritage. Flanking the proscenium is some stunning relief plasterwork that almost has to be seen to be believed.

As a result of its statutory listing, as well as painstaking renovation by its current owner, both interior and exterior are happily in very good condition and in fact the building could easily revert to performance use with very minimal effort.

Sources
Cinematopia essential resource Cinemas In Britain by Richard Gray (ISBN 0-85331-685-6).
* BBC Hereford and Worcester - Northwick Cinema feature

Comment
English Heritage Viewfinder has several pictures of the Northwick from the John Maltby Collection, including the beautiful John Alexander auditorium.

Even ignoring the spectacular surroundings, the Northwick is well worth a visit in its current form; the furniture shop which now fills the main auditorium is a treasure trove of unusual items.

1938 (© Worcester City Museums):
Northwick - 1938 (Worcester City Museums)

2007:
Northwick - 2007 Northwick - 2007

Scala Theatre

The Scala was opened as a theatre in 1922 by a consortium of local businessmen. It closed as a cinema in 1973. It is currently in mixed use as an amusement arcade and tanning salon.

Sources
* Mercia Cinema Society, September 2004.
* Worcester City Museums.

1952 (© Worcester City Museums):
Worcester Scala - 1952 (Worcester City Museums)

2007:
Worcester Scala - 2007 Worcester Scala - 2007

St. John's Cinema

Odeon

At 5am on 17th April 2004, fire crews were called to the ablaze St. John's Cinema, just off the Bull Ring, in the fear that trespassers were trapped inside. Nearly three years later, the building still stands empty and derelict, in a decidedly sorry state. But it wasn't always the heap it now appears.

St. John's is, in fact, Worcester's oldest surviving original cinema building. Opened by the Goodsall brothers on the site of the Old King's Head in July 1914, it was hailed at the time as a technological marvel. In 1929, it showed Worcester's first talkie.

After a fire in 1939, it was taken over by the Odeon circuit, closing in 1959 (by which time Odeon had at least two other cinemas in the city, shown above). For a time it operated as a nightclub called ZigZags. The site is now apparently owned by supermarket chain Sainsbury's, but there seems to be no immediate indication that they are planning to build a store there.

Sources
* Malvern Gazette - article "Victims feared trapped in old cinema", 17th April 2004.
* Worcester People & Places.

2007:
St. John's Worcester - 2007 St. John's Worcester - 2007

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