THE ODEON CINEMA - A UNIQUE ART DECO
The Newport Odeon Theatre was opened on the 12th of March 1938 with Nova Pilbeam in “Young and Innocent”. It was designed by architect Harry Weedon and the job architect was Arthur J. Price, built in classic Art Deco style for the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon Theatres Ltd. It is one of only several buildings in Newport that have an Art Deco style, another being the former Maindee Baths. It remained the Odeon until its closure on 30th May 1981 with Elliott Gould in “The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark”. It was empty for 21 years, apart from a period when the ground floor was used as a snooker hall from 1986 to 1991. For a short while it became Capone’s American Bar nightclub. It escaped demolition. In 2003, the former cinema was restored at considerable expense by a local businessman as a music venue keeping many of the surviving original features and re-named Newport City Live Arena.
In early-2008, it was reported that the building was in use as the Newport City Church, but they had moved out by February 2009, and the building again stood unused.
In early-2010, it had been taken over by Chris Plaister (a member of the Cinema Theatre Association) and was being developed into a museum of cinema and television equipment history. A £180,000 grant was provided to develop the cinema as part of this project. In December 2011 the future looked promising. The Argus said "The £6 million project will include the main auditorium brought back into use for community performances and a projection room to show educational and commercial films." But unfortunately though partially refurbished and used for model railway exhibitions there has not been the full scale use anticipated. In 2015 it was out up for sale with offers invited over £300,000 and sold in October of that year.
It is a Grade II Listed building, listed in 1999. It is described on the website Modernist Britain of 'a rare surviving example in Wales of cinema whose exterior preserves the distinctive architectural vocabulary of the 1930s Odeon style'.
It adds "The chain, started by Oscar Deutsch with its first cinema in Perry Barr in Birmingham owned in excess of 250 cinemas prior to the Second World War. Modernist architecture was almost exclusively used by Deutsch; only local planning constraints in particularly sensitive locations - such as historic Chester and York - restricted the design ambitions of Deutsch's architects.
Like many of the early Odeon cinemas the Odeon Newport was designed by the Weedon Partnership, with Arthur J Price assisting Harry Weedon in the execution of the design. Overall, the design bears a striking similarity to that of the Odeon at Sutton Coldfield, by Harry Weedon and Cecil Clavering."