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Random thoughts about sound and vision.

Odeon And On

The Last Picture Show, part two.

Seems like only a few weeks since a Bournemouth cinema closed down. And that's because it is. Tonight, the former ABC's sister in Westover Road  - the Odeon - brings down the shutters as well.

Unlike the Last Night Of The ABC, however, there will be no grand event to mark its closure. No screening of a film voted by the public, no TV crews, no branded cupcakes. This evening, one Odeon closes down and tomorrow, another rises; a cinematic phoenix without ashes. A state-of-the-art Odeon too, housed in the equally-new BH2 complex. This new Odeon boasts 10 theatres, including an iSense megascreen with a 4K ultra-high definition projection system, 56 channels of Dolby Atmos sound and reclining seats. And as well as the films, there's going to be a smorgasbord of gourmet food offerings to take to your seat as well.

We're not in small-fizzy-drink-and-a-bag-of-popcorn Kansas anymore, Toto.

The old Gaumont One (now Odeon 1)

The old Gaumont One (now Odeon 1)

Which all sounds terrific - a real vote of confidence in Bournemouth's cinema-goers. There is, of course, a tinge of regret at the grand old Odeon's passing. When it opened way back in 1929, it was called the Regent and housed one huge screen. By the time The Beatles played a week-long residency there in 1963, it had changed its name to the Gaumont. In 1969, it was divided into two auditoriums - the Gaumont 1 upstairs, with its gloriously curved Cinerama screen and the mammoth Gaumont 2 downstairs.

The old Gaumont 2, before its demise in 1989.

The old Gaumont 2, before its demise in 1989.

This is where I saw the majority of films back in the late '70s and '80s. You couldn't prebook your seat in those days. For the really big movies - blockbusters like a Star Wars , a James Bond or Alien - you had to start queuing early, joining the line inevitably snaking round the corner and up along the alley that ran beside the building. Join it early and you'd have your pick of the prime viewing locations in the cinema. Arrive too late and you'd either be relegated to the far end of row seats towards the back or - the horror, the horror! - not get in at all. 

In 1986, the Gaumont was re-branded as an Odeon and three years later, the once proud Gaumont 2 screen was diced into four smaller theatres. The large upstairs screen had remained intact but sadly now shows its last frames tonight.

There's been scoffing by some commentators in the local paper about how anyone can get sentimental about a cinema closing. I disagree. As with the ABC, I have great memories of the Gaumont/Odeon and all - well, many - of the films I've seen there. 

Final shot: the Odeon, Westover Road. And fade to black...