Luton Heritage Forum

Former Bingo Hall (Odeon Cinema)

Address : 127 Dunstable Road, Luton

Grid Reference : TL0837621731

Site Status : Grade II listed

Statutory List Description : Former cinema. 1937-8, opening as the Odeon cinema in October 1938. Architect Keith P Roberts, an assistant in the practice of Andrew Mather (1890-1938), one of the principal practices working on the Odeon cinemas during the 1930s. Steel frame clad in brick, with entrance frontage of opaque glass panels with rendered flank. Roof concealed by parapets. Rectangular plan of double-height auditorium with single balcony, served by foyers on two levels and offices on three.

EXTERIOR: The street facade is a Modern Movement composition of unusual austerity and confidence: the entrance is ranged to the right with to the left the long auditorium side wall of brick divided into nine bays by pilasters and running parallel to the street. The three-storey section above the entrance is recessed and faced with the opaque cream glass panels. It has five square windows at second floor level only. On the right, the rendered section has horizontal windows to all three storeys, which turn the corner on to the return wall. Between the recessed section and the auditorium wall rises a fin tower, which originally carried a neon letter '0' at the top. The tower's flat roof oversails on the street front. Rendering continues on right-hand return wall, which has three small staircase windows only. Later twentieth-century entrance doors and canopy, with illuminated fascia.

INTERIOR: Inside the entrance doors, there are six steps, with four sets of original moderne style handrails, up to the foyer. Deep foyer with, on the left wall, two sets of double doors to the stalls level of the auditorium. Three shallow saucer-dome lighting features. Straight ahead is an imperial stair leading to the upper foyer, where doors (with original chromium handles and finger plates) give access to the auditorium balcony. The auditorium is large, originally having 1,958 seats. Double-height, with a series of dramatic streamlined curving lighting coves in the ceiling above the proscenium, which develop into reverse curves and terminate in the side walls. Narrow horizontal banding (with an openwork section for ventilation) in fibrous plaster flanking the proscenium and then further back broader banding surmounted by five circular plaster features on each side. On the soffit of the first ceiling cove are a series of saucer domes carrying concentric plaster rings with shallow pendants in the centre of each, which originally supported uplighters. Panels of honeycomb ventilation openwork in second ceiling cove. Central tongue of fibrous plaster in ceiling with three more concentric ringed saucer domes. Central tongue of fibrous plaster in ceiling with three more concentric ringed saucer domes. Balcony soffit with vestigial remains of saucer domes and a line of curving flutings running the full width for ventilation. Broad central vomitory stairs in balcony. Honeycomb ventilator panels in the ceiling over the rear balcony. Balcony also has original barriers at the crossover gangway and at the rear.

ANALYSIS: Included as a rare example of thoroughgoing International Modernism applied to a cinema. The auditorium is a good example of the best streamlined style of the time, but the facade is a remarkably sophisticated piece of purist geometry, entirely lacking historicist references or even Art Deco styli ng. Keith Roberts ( 1910-1994 ) was the outstanding designer of International Modern cinemas in Britain, and the former Odeon at Luton is the best remaining example.

Sources: Allen Eyles, 'Oscar and the Odeons', in Focus on Film, Autumn 1975, pp.45, 56 Architecture Illustrated, December 1938, pp.171-4 Rosemary Clegg, Odeon, Birmingham, Mercia Cinema Society, 1985, p.86

Information provided by Luton Borough Council.

Site Location (OS map and aerial view)

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External Links

Bing Maps view - an angled aerial view centred on the current site, which is marked with a blue dot. Bing enables you to move round and view all four sides of the building (n.b. when viewing from other angles, the blue dot may not always indicate the correct building).

Wikipedia's Glossary of Architecture - you might find this helpful if you are not familiar with all the architectural terms used to describe this site. There are links to other glossaries on our Links page.

Nearby Sites

These are the closest sites to the Former Bingo Hall (Odeon Cinema) and are all within about 500 metres :

Ashburnham Road
59-65 Ashburnham Road [Draft Local List]
Cardiff Road
12 Cardiff Road [Draft Local List]
Cardigan Street
1-5 Cardigan Street - Cardigan Mews [Draft Local List]
2-6 Cardigan Street [Draft Local List]
Dunstable Road
Bute House [Draft Local List]
19 Dunstable Road - Central Block Of St Marys Hospital [Grade II listed]
Hazelbury Crescent
29 & 31 Hazelbury Crescent - 29-31 Hazelbury Crescent [Draft Local List]
Moor Street
12a Moor Street - Community Centre [Draft Local List]
New Bedford Road
72 New Bedford Road [Draft Local List]
120 New Bedford Road [Draft Local List]
Upper George Street
Christ Church [Grade II listed]
Waldeck Road
Bury Park United Reformed Church [Grade II listed]
Westbourne Road
4 Westbourne Road - Luton Mosque and Cultural Centre [Draft Local List]

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