7 Clerk Street Edinburgh Edinburgh EH8 9JH
Architect: WE Trent, JW Jordan Listing: A-Listed (upgraded from B in 2012) No of Seats: Unknown
Status: Under Restoration Opened: 1930 Closed: 2003
Other information: Opened 25.8.30 by Gaumont. Arch. WE Trent, JW Jerdan. s. 2,058. Modernised, 1960. s. 1784. Renamed, 6.4.64. Tripled, 3.4.82. Screens 4 (front stalls) and 5 (stage) opened, 12.89. Cl. 9.03.
The New Victoria opened on 25th August 1930. It was designed for the Gaumont company by the architects WE Trent & JW Jordan, with seating for 2,058. (Trent’s only other cinema north of the border, also for Gaumont, is in Alloa).
The small foyer led to a long, curving stalls lounge. The auditorium was in classical Greek style, with figurines in niches lining the walls. A curving collonade ran round the rear of the balcony, and several private boxes lined the rear of the stalls. The original proscenium was flanked by 6 full-height pillars on each side. Full stage and dressing room facilities were provided.
CinemaScope was installed in 1954, and the proscenium was widened and brought forward and the pillars hidden by curtains in 1958 to allow ‘South Pacific’ to be shown in 70mm. The auditorium was also modernised, and lights were fitted to the ceiling to create the effect of a sitting out under a starry sky in 1960. The seating was also reduced to around 1,784. In April 1964, the building was renamed the Odeon.
In 1974, the building was B-listed as, in the words of Historic Scotland, “An outstanding example of the work of the most famous British cinema specialists.”
The stage was made deeper in 1978, and the building was often used for live music shows such as The Clash.
In 1982, the auditorium was subdivided, with two new cinemas created in the original rear stalls area. The original balcony became Screen 1. Due to the listed status of the building, this was done in a reversible manner, with the original decoration retained. In 1989, two more screens were created – one on the stage and front stalls area; the other above this in space above the stage. A replica of part of the original proscenium was created for Screen 1, directly in front of the original, which remained hidden but intact.
In 2003, Odeon sold the building (along with the Odeon Renfield Street in Glasgow) to a property developer. The cinema closed on 30th August 2003, with many of the staff transferring to the new miniplex Odeon that was opened on the site of the old ABC Lothian Road. At the time of closure, there were 5 screens, seating: 1: 639 (original circle), 2: 292 (left rear stalls), 3: 201 (right rear stalls), 4: 261 (stage and front stalls), 5: 107 (above 4 on stage).
In August 2004 the building was temporarily used as a Edinburgh Festival Fringe venue called Pod Deco – each of the screens was a separate stage used for comedy and drama. Temporary seating was used, and in Screen 1, a new lighting rig was suspended from the ceiling. Curtains hid the lack of screen.
Especially nice was the re-opening of the cafe area as a bar, and being able to sit out on the balcony on a summer evening having a drink. The Pod people had expressed an interest in running the building as an all-year round venue, although nothing came of this.
In February 2005, plans were lodged with Edinburgh City Council to demolish the auditorium entirely, and build student flats on the site. Only the facade would be retained under this scheme, although it too would be modified by the addition of an extra glass floor above the current roof-level. This scheme was thankfully eventually withdrawn. It is understood that some other parties may have expressed interest in utilising the building for other uses, and the ultimate fate of the building is far from certain at present.
In August 2005, the building was once again used as a fringe venue, called C Electric, and the main Screen 1 was being used to show classic films, projected from 35mm film, for the duration of the Festival.
(Many thanks to Iain Stewart of Duddingston House Properties and the very nice people at C Venues for allowing us access to record the interior.)
Images courtesy of Frank Watson / Scottish Cinema Organ Trust
External Link: this website on the Odeon Edinburgh features more interior photos, as well as a newspaper report of the opening of the cinema in 1930.
Technical details (courtesy George Will & Geoff Ruderham):
Cinema 1 (35mm & 70mm) From 1956 onwards Philips DP70’s. (35/70mm Projectors)
At closure; Cinemeccanica Victoria 9 with Christie table (Non Rewind system) also
Sound before closure Dolby Digital, Dolby S.R., Dolby Stereo & DTS.
Cinema 2, (35mm only) Cinemeccanica Victoria 5 with Christie table (Non Rewind system) Sound Dolby S.R
A unique “interlock” system was installed between 2&3 so they could share one print at busy times.
Cinema 3, (35mm only) Cinemeccanica Victoria 5 with Christie Non Rewind system Sound Dolby S.R
Cinema 4, (35mm only) Cinemeccanica Victoria 5 with Christie Non Rewind system Sound Dolby Stereo
Cinema 5, (35mm only) Cinemeccanica Victoria 5 with Christie Non Rewind system Sound Dolby Stereo