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Vintage Portsmouth: The Odeon Cinema in Southsea

Vintage Portsmouth: The Odeon Cinema in Southsea

The grand, maritime inspired art deco architecture of The Odeon cinema on the corner of Highland Road and Festing Road made it one of the most striking buildings in both the city and the south coast. The cinema was opened in 1937 and was the height of luxury at the time, built to accommodate 1,700 customers with ample leg room plus a grand foyer and balconies. It later changed it’s name to the Salon in 1977 and in 1981 was changed to two screens. Like many smaller cinemas at the time the cinema was hit hard by the growth of home video and sadly closed in 1985 and then demolished. The space where the cinema was located is now part of the grounds of Craneswater Junior School. A real pity such a beautiful cinema such as this was not saved as old cinemas have been in other towns and cities such as The Dome in Worthing.

The photos below show the exterior and the interior and they belong to Portsmouth City Council and the John Maltby collection, which belongs to English Heritage.

The Odeon Cinema in Southsea

The Odeon Cinema in Southsea by John Maltby (English Heritage)

The Odeon Cinema in Southsea by John Maltby (English Heritage)

The Odeon Cinema in Southsea by John Maltby (English Heritage)

The Odeon Cinema in Southsea

The Odeon Cinema in Southsea by John Maltby (English Heritage)

The Odeon Cinema in Southsea - The Salon in 1978


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  1. Mark

    2 January

    I vividly remember my mum’s aunt taking me along to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture when I was 8 and when it was called the Salon, sitting in the front row of the balcony seats, and experiencing incredible vertigo as the Enterprise made its way through the inside of V’ger.

  2. Pete Blackman

    2 January

    Geez I’m old.

  3. Martin

    2 January

    Amazing! I never knew this once existed. I love the style of the old cinemas.

  4. Brett

    2 January

    Wow! What a shame it no longer stands, love architecture from that time, the interior looks stunning! cities are always too quick to demolish buildings, i still miss the tricorn!!!

  5. steve Langton

    2 January

    We used to go to Saturday morning picture here. complete chaos, 100’s of kids chucking stuff, almost no adults, great fun !

    I remember A Clockwork Orange being screened before being pulled.

    Also a bit of urban exploration just before demo, shame no photos.

    Imagine approaching Ports City Council for permission to build something similar nowadays, they’d have kittens !!

  6. Paul Windsor

    2 January

    Fantastic pictures.I remember going a few times.

  7. Chantelle Cheshire

    2 January

    I remember going too, the care bear movie of all things : )

  8. @Lord_Palmerston

    3 January

    I saw my first films there – Pete’s Dragon, one of the Herbie films, Space Cat (scared the hell out of me, as did 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea). There was something of a campaign to preserve the facade when the cinema closed, but it came to nothing. Glad to see the Odeon at North End has been kept as it is.

    The Co-Op round the corner in Albert Rd used to be a cinema, as you can probably tell from the shape of the building. That was before my time – it was a Fine-Fare supermarket by the time I was going to the Odeon/Salon but I’m told there is quite a bit of cinema left “behind the scenes” – maybe something for you to investigate in the future?

  9. Mark J

    8 January

    I remember queuing to cranes water park to see the first Star Wars film, think I saw the man who would be king and abba the movie there. It was huge and the foyer was stunning.

    I see the odeon in north end is now a sainsburys and the dance hall along from Kingston crescent has had the guts ripped out. More poor quality flats I expect.

  10. Paul Gonella

    9 January

    Great find Mark! Last thing I saw there was Godzilla. Some great vintage finds in there at the time those photos were taken.

  11. charlie

    9 January

    Amazing pictures, what a wicked looking building. It’s a crying shame that it didn’t stand a chance, how rad would it be to have a cinema down the road too ?

    Notice the cigarette billboards flanking the 80s Salon.

  12. John Nicholas

    9 January

    Cool photo’s. My uncle (Jack Nicholas) was a projectionist at the Odeon Southsea, in the early 1940’s during world war 2.
    Also my dad (Fred Nicholas) used to work at the Odeon Southsea, in the 1940’s and one of his jobs was to take the Pathe news reels from the Odeon to the Plazza Cinema at Bradford junction (that’s now the mosque and was a bingo hall during the 1970’s). It’s just around the corner from Priory school.

    On a related note, yesterday (wed 8 jan) in ‘The News’local paper there was a photo of the other albert road cinema ‘The Gaiety’ thats now the co-op.

  13. Mark J

    10 January

    Who remembers the cinema in Fratton Road next to the Libary? I remember bunking off school to see Flesh Gordon and Jungle Burger there….

  14. Serena

    18 January

    Abba the Movie, Star Wars, Grease, ah the the lovely old Odeon/Salon of my 70s youth. However, bunked into Quadrophenia underage up at the old ABC, sadly now a waste ground.

  15. Natalie

    19 January

    My Mum worked there for a short time when I was a kid so saw loads of films there. Forgot how beautiful it was inside though! Excellent to see the photos.

  16. Tracey New

    19 January

    I remember Saturday morning ‘pictures’. Used to walk with my little bruv down the alley (by the side of Mumms). Chaos ensued ….but it was just brilliant fun and no ‘trouble’ just pure enjoyment of the atmosphere, place and films.
    We went to the sweet shop in Winter rd first with our pocket money. For the penny sweets that we took along with us.

  17. Robert

    19 January

    I remember going to Saturday morning pictures at the Odeon, great fun, you knew the sort of film showing as the kids would be pretending to sword fight on the way out or using their coats as capes.
    Went here to see the Graduate (1967) and were only a few minutes into the film when we had to leave because of a bomb scare, we all queued outside for about twenty minutes and then they let us back in to carry on with the film.

  18. Catherine

    21 January

    I remember the Salon and loved seeing these pictures. I’m pretty sure the last film I saw there was E.T.

  19. Craig Eves

    23 January

    Years ago I was the marketing manager at Odeon North End. I’ve since compiled these photos of the building that has become a Sainsburys.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/5581444038/photos/

    Please take a look at the photos, but the group is only open to ex staff members.

  20. Paul Gonella

    23 January

    Thanks loads to everyone for their memories of the Southsea Odeon and the North End one too, including the photos of North End. The last film I saw at North End was I think Godzilla in maybe 98 or 99?

  21. Kevin

    4 February

    Such a long time ago.
    I saw my first ever colour movie at the Odeon.
    As kids we used to go and watch the Sat morning shows, Flash Gordon, Rin Tin Tin.
    (I’ve never seen Rin Tin Tin since.)
    I think the last movie I saw there was Battle for the Planet of the Apes, about 1974 or 75. We emigrated to Sydney in 1976 and I did not return for a visit to Portsmouth until 1994 and again in 2009.
    A lot of changes, but at least the seafront still looks pretty much the same.
    Fancy knocking the Odeon down, what do local councils think of?

  22. david barber

    24 April

    I recall the Odeon Southsea with affection, it was also my local, just 5 minutes from where I used to live in Rochester Road. It is a tragedy it was not saved. With ref to the former Gaiety, now for the past 54 years a supermarket, I have been in that one quite a few times when I was a lad in the 1950s. It was quite ornate with plenty of guilding work on the plaster walls and barrel vaulted ceiling. The house lights were like big maple leafs or stars in amber and green glass. beautiful. My late Dad had a hand in desiging those. I have been after photos of the inerior of this cinema, but no luck as yet, if anyone knows where, be delighted to know. I did a local radio broadacst on our local radio station Express FM with Robin Kay The History Show, that programe at the moment is off air, on all Portsmouth art deco cinemas their wonderful interiors. Also as well, I did a exhibition at Gunwarf Quays Aspex Gallery, on the cinemas of Portsmouth in 2011, 4 of my scale models HAND MADE on display, these were, Odoeon North End, Criterion Gosport, Majestic Kingston Road, and my favourite cinema in all Portsmouth the Essoldo Albert Road Southsea. The Odeon was presented to the gallery and can also take a 7 inch screen dvd player, so a real working model cinema. If you go to the Aspex Gallery archives, you may see photos of the models I have made. All models are FULLY DETAILED, with stage, seating, clocks, projection room etc. Best wishes David Barber

  23. claire jones

    3 August

    I remember 1960+- living above our shop in Albert road and going to the odeon sat mornings. one week downstairs with sweets next week upstairs no sweets.

  24. Ann wise

    26 September

    My dad who is now 73 (Alan Goldie ) and my mother Margaret o’connell both worked at the southsea cinema
    My dad was a projectionist and my mum was an usherte
    This is how they both met
    Is there anyone out there that knows family members who used to work there before the building got knocked down?

  25. Ann wise

    27 September

    I’ve just spoken to my dad and he saidhe started off as an apprentice and worked there for 23 years.

    He said he then worked in Alexandra park as a gardener for the council, and found out that Jack Nicholas was his supervisor there

  26. Paul Gonella

    1 October

    Hi Ann, thanks loads for the insights in to the personal histories related to this amazing building and part of the city’s history. We love it when we have people let us know their side of a story that we post up.

  27. Ann Wise

    28 October

    Thats ok Paul
    Ive managed to trace Fred Nicholas on facebook, and have sent him a messaged…….watch this space

  28. Adam Court

    1 January

    Beautiful! There is something very romantic about cinemas like this. I long for the return of cinemas like these. What a stunning building, great history and great photos

  29. lindsaylindsay56@hotmail.com

    12 January

    it should have been a listed building. Beautiful inside. Just for the school to have extra land. Never see anyone on it.

  30. Sameen

    13 January

    amazing, real history. I agree that it should have been a listed building at the time. They turned the Renfield Street cinema in Glasgow into a block of flats. The building itself is striking.

  31. G Pennock

    25 February

    I remember this cinema, going down with my Mother and sister to watch Star Wars and Empire strikes back double bill. Great childhood memories.

  32. Shaun Turish

    23 March

    Lovee the old photos you show on here and love your website, as an exiled Pomponian really miss home.
    No one seems to mention the Gaumont in North end which closed some time in the 1970s I believe, another beautiful cinema lost.

  33. gordon osborn

    6 August

    I use to work at this cinima as a doorman back in the 60s when Alan Goldee was the projectionist we were good friends and i had the plesure of meeting his mother on a couple of occasions one of the films showing at the time was the sound of music that run for several weeks also a film called The Train and laurence of arabia I do still have an old photo of the christmas party showing staff at the time Dusty was the name of the head doorman at the time

  34. gordon osborn

    6 August

    can any one put me intouch with Ann Wise whow posted above as i have a couple of photo’s that she might be interested in seeing of people her father worked with at the cinima he is also in them

  35. Paul Gonella

    8 August

    Hi Gordon, thanks for adding your memories of the Odeon to this article!

  36. Anthony Farr

    18 September

    Having just received a copy of ‘A 1950’s Portsmouth childhood and only read a few pages has made me feel very nostalgic as I had a girl friend in Craneswater Park and walked past the Odeon on many occasions. Wally Grout had a train shop in Highlands Road and his daughter went to my school St Judes in Marmion Road.I moved to Sydney in 1980 and cannot understand why the council had to change so many road names in Portsmouth.Where’s Hyde Park Road gone, as I attended the Art College there.When I moved to St Pauls Rd in 1947 my route to school was along Kings Rd which was all bomb sites. How things have changed.Anthony Farr email tonyandedwina@bigpond.com

  37. Jan Amy

    2 July

    My father (Frank Burton) was a projectionist at this cinema – I would say he must have started during the war as I know he left in 1945 to do his National service, then went back after.
    He then got asked to transfer to the Odeon in Jersey which had just been opened in 1953.

  38. Di

    28 September

    Any body know when the Odeon, Festing rd/Highland rd was demolished?

  39. Ann Wise

    17 October

    Sadly since writing my post, my Dad – Alan Goldie who worked at the Odeon for 23 years sadly passed away 31st January 2016 xx

  40. Paul Gonella

    26 October

    Very sorry to hear that. Our store and studio are on Highland Road and we pass the site of the old Odeon every day, wish it was still there.

  41. Rob Elford

    24 December

    Lived in the top floor of Festing buildings opposite from 85-92 and prior to that visited the Odeon many times with parents in my youth. Have lived in the West Country since the early noughties now but found this on line and happy memories and visions flooded back. Wonderful memory of places and times long lost.

  42. Rob Elford

    24 December

    Lived in the top floor of Festing buildings opposite from 85-92 and prior to that visited the Odeon many times with parents in my youth. Have lived in the West Country since the early noughties now but found this on line.. Wonderful memory of places and times long lost.

  43. Maggie Wallbridge

    9 February

    I have great memories of this back in the 50s …was a time that me and my bruvs were all together …its a shame they knocked it down…no matter what they do to Portsmouth they can never replace a great place such as this and its memories ………. so sad x

  44. David Barber

    3 March

    Hi everyone David Barber calling. With further reference to the Odeon Southsea, I am delighted to let you know, I have made a 00 scale working model of this cinema, with l e d lights and it takes a 7 inch DVD player. It was on show with my local model railway club I belong to, Victory Model Railway Club .com at our annual Xmas show at St Cuthberts church. It caused a sensation, also along with my working model of the long gone Essoldo Southsea, which also takes a DVD player and has lights. Both will be on show at our annual exhibition Lord Nelson School, May 12th 2018, 10 till 5m. If you go to my club site, then go to the Gallery, click on down till you come to new projects, David Barber, you will see photos of the model, then under construction. I plan to build the Gaiety Southsea, as it was in the 1950s. Still no luck with photos of the auditorium in that period I am after, if anyone has any or know where, be glad to know. I have on DVD most of the films shown at the Essoldo and Odeon. With best wishes David Barber

  45. Mark Trelfa

    5 April

    I remember going to the Saturday Cinema Club every Saturday morning: standing for the national anthem; a serial such as The Three Stooges; the Feature Film which is when all hell broke lose if it was boring, bringing the film to a stop and the manager to the stage; and a cartoon to finish. He must have dreaded Saturdays! Seeing the photos I understand perhaps why I now have an enduring affection for Art Deco buildings. What a cinema! To me then it was just what cinemas were. Totally wasted on me as an 8 year old!

  46. David poulton

    16 June

    It was a lovely venue its modern version at port solent simular i have been going to odeon ovet the past years. Its nice decor but nothing like odeon southsea i went there between 1966 to 75 my sister ann and i belonged to the saturday morning cinema club only children and a lot of fun saw lots if the fiims of that time favourite chitty chitty bang bang in 1968 ive still got a copy of the film. Shame it closed and was pulled down its needed today it was there 1937 to 1985. Port solent is ok but hasnt got the splender of the old southsea odeon.

  47. david barber

    30 December

    Hi Everyone, David Barber again. I just thought you would like to know, the latest cinema models now completed are of Portsmouth`s Majestic, Shaftesbury, Rex, all with lights and take the DVD player . The one I am on at the moment is the former Odeon Muswell Hill, now an Everyman. After this the last ones will be the Coronet of Notting Hill, Portsmouth`s Essoldo Eastney Tivoli Copnor Road and the Criterion Forton Road Gosport. All will have lights and take the DVD player. The Majestic and Shaftesbury models have featured in our local paper The News, hopefully the Rex will feature also. I will have about 10 models to ring the changes at my model railway club exhibitions. Anyone want to see my models go to the site The News Bob Hind pages, or Victory Model Railway Club. Comments on my models or questions, be most welcome.

  48. Kaitain Jones

    20 May

    Saw Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi here, and also Close Encounters 3K Special Edition, The Black Hole and several others. At the time there were three main commercial cinemas on Portsea Island: the Salon, the Odeon on London Rd and the ABC (later the Cannon) on Commercial Rd as you headed out towards the ferry port. Odeon is the only one of the three whose structure is still there, although I think it’s a supermarket now.

  49. Keith Limburn

    19 August

    Growing up in cosham,i used The Odeon,and The Essoldo,but my favourite cinema was The Odeon,at North End.My great friend at that time was a brilliant local footballer named Barry Jack.Barry had a sister in law,called Edna i think,and she worked in The Odeon,as an usherette.She used to get us tickets,but my point is i always thought it much more posher than my cosham Odeon.Great memories.Also Sat morning at cosham,all us lot from Wymering had to have an adult escorting us to and from Wymering,as some were very naughty,especially the girls.First time i took my wife to the cinema,it was at the ABC.Its criminal that nobody had the forsight to keep some of those magnificent buildings.

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