Memories of Odeon cinema 40 years after closure
PUBLISHED: 06:00 25 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:19 25 April 2019
From joy and laughter to fear and frights, cinemas play host to a vast array of emotions.
But there was heartbreak for film fans in 1979 when Lowestoft's Odeon was demolished, leaving the town without a place to watch the latest big screen blockbusters.
Today, April 25, marks exactly 40 years since the cinema was closed, making way for a shopping precinct that was later named The Britten Centre. Previously operated by N.E. Chipperfield as a multi-purpose store, the premises on London Road North were transformed in the mid-1930s to become one of Oscar Deutch's Odeon movie theatres.
Excited locals bundled through the doors for the attraction's very first screening on January 23, 1937, 'The Man Who Could Work Miracles' starring Roland Young.
The auditorium itself could accommodate an audience of almost 2,000, with seating for 1,262 in the stalls and 606 in the circle.
Tragedy struck in January 1942 when a Second World War onslaught known as Waller's Raid destroyed several buildings directly opposite the cinema, killing 74 people and injuring 124.
The Odeon's facade was badly damaged and its foyer was used as a temporary mortuary, but once renovation work was completed, thousands of film fanatics continued flocking to the cinema for another 37 years.
Ken Jarmin, who worked at the cinema for the final few years of its life, has only fond memories of his time there. He said: “I worked there for the last three or four years of it being open and really enjoyed it.
“One of the best things I remember is, every Thursday, we used to run next week's film for ourselves. We saw Star Wars the day before it was released, meaning we were some of the first people to see it.”
Despite enjoying periods of success, the cinema was under increasing financial pressure and its impending closure was announced in 1979. The Odeon's final screening was 'Live and Let Die', starring Roger Moore. It was demolished just a few weeks later.
“The cinema never made a loss, but in its last financial year it only made a profit of about £12,” added Mr Jarmin. “We were given just four weeks' notice of the closure, which wasn't really enough time to get a campaign going to save it.
“Talk to anyone under 50 and they probably won't remember the Odeon, but when people see photographs they say 'what were they thinking demolishing that!'”
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Lowestoft Journal. Click the link in the orange box above for details.