Number of locations
|122 (United Kingdom)|
|United Kingdom, Ireland and Norway|
|Mark Way (Group chief executive officer)|
|Parent||Odeon Cinemas Group|
Odeon is a cinema brand name operating in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Norway, which along with UCI Cinemas and Nordic Cinema Group is part of the Odeon Cinemas Group subsidiary of AMC Theatres. It uses the famous name of the Odeon cinema circuit first introduced in Britain in 1930.
The first Odeon cinema was opened by Oscar Deutsch in 1928, in Brierley Hill, Staffordshire (now West Midlands), although initially called "Picture House". The first cinema to use the Odeon brand name was Deutsch's cinema at Perry Barr, Birmingham in 1930. Ten years later Odeon was part of the Rank Organisation who continued their ownership of the circuit for a further sixty years. Through a number of sales and acquisitions in the early 2000s the company was purchased by Terra Firma, which merged Odeon and UCI Cinemas to form Odeon UCI Cinemas Group. Most UCI cinemas then took the Odeon brand name in 2006. Terra Firma/UCI sold the company to AMC Theatres in November 2016. Ironically, UCI was originally formed through the merger of AMC UK and Cinema International Corporation in 1989.
Odeon Cinemas was created in 1928 by Oscar Deutsch. Odeon publicists liked to claim that the name of the cinemas was derived from his motto, "Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation", but it had been used for cinemas in France and Italy in the 1920s, and the word is actually Ancient Greek. The name "Nickelodeon" was coined in 1888 and was widely used to describe small cinemas in the United States starting from 1905.
However the company is most associated with J. Arthur Rank, the owner for the longest period in its history.
The first cinema opened by Oscar Deutsch was located in Brierley Hill, Staffordshire, England in 1928. The building has long since been demolished, but as of 2006, the former UCI Cinema (built in the 1980s as an AMC multiplex) at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre in Brierley Hill was refurbished as an Odeon Cinema. However, its style is more functional than that of original Odeon cinemas.
The first cinema that opened under the Odeon brand was located in Perry Barr, Birmingham. It was designed by Harry Weedon. The frontage was remodelled following damage sustained during the Second World War and, having been a bingo hall, has since been converted into a conference venue.
By 1930, "Odeon" was a household name and the cinemas known for their maritime-inspired Art Deco architecture. This style was first used in 1930 on the cinema at Perry Barr in Birmingham, which was bought by Deutsch to expand the chain. He liked the style so much that he commissioned the architect, Harry Weedon, to design his future buildings. George Coles was also one of their principal architects, remodelling a partially complete assembly hall in Portslade and designing his first purpose-built cinema in Upper Wickham Lane, Welling, Kent which opened on 22 October 1934 and closed on 22 October 1960. It is currently a bingo club in the Mecca chain. It featured central linear lighting, a feature that became characteristic of his work.
In 1935, Oscar Deutsch commissioned John Maltby (1910–80), a professional photographer, to photograph every cinema in the Odeon chain at that time. The resulting collection, of internal and external photographs, is held in the public archive of English Heritage and can be seen online.
Deutsch sold the chain to the business interests of J. Arthur Rank, who was in the process of forming the Rank Organisation in 1938. In addition acquisitions of other cinema chains had taken place following the Rank takeover including the UK cinema operations of Paramount Pictures in 1939 and purchase of Gaumont British cinemas in 1941.
By the time of Oscar Deutsch's death in 1941, 258 Odeons had opened throughout Britain. After the sale to J. Arthur Rank Corporation, Odeon also operated a wholly owned Canadian subsidiary, Odeon Theatres (Canada) Ltd., with more than a hundred cinemas in Canada, coast-to-coast. The head office of Odeon Canada was in Toronto, and later, the north Toronto suburb of Willowdale. This business was sold in 1978 to the Canadian Theatres chain and became Canadian Odeon Theatres, then was sold again in 1984 to Cineplex, forming Cineplex Odeon (now, once again, Cineplex). It also owned fifty percent of an Australian subsidiary, Greater Union Organisation, based in Sydney, with dozens of cinemas across Australia. The Rank Organisation's share of Greater Union Organisation was sold to Amalgamated Holdings Ltd., an Australian company, also in 1984; Greater Union Organisation is now known as Event Cinemas.
Each Odeon cinema had a character different from most other cinemas in the UK, often having a unique and spectacular interior. They also ran their own advertising company, called Rank Screen Advertising, in competition with the UK market leader Pearl & Dean, which it eventually overtook. Rank Screen Advertising was later rebranded as Cinema Media before being taken over by Carlton Communications and became Carlton Screen Advertising. In 2008, Odeon, along with rival chain Cineworld, bought back the company and today it is known as Digital Cinema Media.
A smaller number of Odeon cinemas opened in the post-war years (Odeon Marble Arch and Odeon Elephant & Castle being notable instances), but many single-screen cinemas either closed, sub-divided into smaller screens or were converted into other uses, such as bingo.
Since the turn of the century, Odeon has undergone a series of sales after the Rank Group needed cash injections to reduce their debt, firstly to Cinven which merged Odeon with Cinven's ABC Cinemas. In 2004, the chain was purchased by Terra Firma and merged with United Cinemas International to produce the largest cinema chain in Europe. As a condition of the merger (imposed by the Office of Fair Trading), Odeon's Newcastle upon Tyne, Sutton Coldfield, Poole, Quinton, Hemel Hempstead and Bromley cinemas were sold to Empire Cinemas. Many smaller, older cinemas such as Odeon Grimsby on Freeman Street were closed to keep market-share within legal limits. The remaining UCI cinemas, including thefilmworks brands, were rebranded as Odeon from 4 November 2005.
UCI cinemas in Ireland have also joined the Odeon chain, and while they initially retained the UCI brand name, evidence of the merger became apparent, for example when booking tickets by credit card, the name "Odeon" appeared. The Odeon in-house film review magazine, "Onscreen", was now also distributed in the UCI cinemas, retaining the Odeon logo font throughout. In August 2007, UCI launched a new Irish website with an identical layout to odeon.co.uk. This website stated that the Irish cinemas were sold to an Irish group, Entertainment Enterprises, in September 2006. This transaction went unreported in the Irish media. It also stated that the cinemas remained part of the Odeon chain under a management contract. Rank/Odeon previously ran cinemas in Ireland (including the flagship, the Savoy Cinema in O'Connell Street) until 1982, when they were purchased by Ward Anderson. In April 2008, Entertainment Enterprises announced that it purchased the Irish assets of Storm Cinemas, and as with the existing UCI chain, would be contracting the running of the cinemas to Odeon. On 31 May 2011, Odeon announced that it had bought back the UCI chain in Ireland (including the Storm Cinemas-branded locations) from Entertainment Enterprises. Odeon rebranded all of its Irish cinemas under the Odeon brand during 2012; the first rebranded cinema reopened on 27 March 2012.
In 2007 Odeon acquired 10 cinemas in Italy. It is now the largest cinema chain in Europe. In March 2012, the Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group under Terra Firma's control reported a £70 million loss for the year 2011, as posted on Companies House.
Terra Firma announced in February 2015 that it planned to sell Odeon and UCI Cinemas for around £1 billion.
In July 2016, the company was bought for $921 million by U.S AMC Theatres, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group, The deal received approval from the European Commission on 17 November 2016, and was completed on 30 November 2016.
The company operates a website and mobile apps for iOS and Android, allowing customers to book tickets in advance of performances. They ceased a telephone booking service in 2014. They run their own Guest Service Centre, based in Stoke-on-Trent, sharing the building with the cinema, but operated separately. The company has a support office in Manchester, and a smaller office in London.
"Limitless" is a nationwide scheme, where, on a 12-month contract basis, allows members to see regular-2D screenings as often as they want for a monthly fee.
Odeon offers premium services for customers who are 18 years or older. It provides a fine dining experience in the Lounge at Whitelys, and a Gallery, offering a premium service, at six locations.
Refusals to screen certain films
In 2008, Odeon made a controversial move by refusing to screen Rambo on any of its UK screens, blaming it on "commercial differences". In 2010 Odeon attempted to boycott Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland at its cinemas in the UK, Ireland and Italy, over a plan by Disney to show the film for a shorter period to allow it to release the film on DVD earlier. Following individual negotiations with Disney, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue reached agreements.
Public customer complaint
On 24 August 2012, a customer named Matt Pledger posted a complaint on Odeon's Facebook wall about his experience with the cinema, citing high ticket prices, high food prices, inattentive staff, sound bleeding through from the cinema next door, and displaying adverts on how piracy was killing film. The complaint eventually went viral, with over 275,000 'Likes' and over 23,000 comments as of 3 September 2012, as well as receiving attention from the national media, including a programme feature on BBC Radio 4.
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- Eyles, Allen (2005) Odeon Cinemas; Vol. 2: From J. Arthur Rank to the Multiplex. London : Cinema Theatre Association ISBN 1-84457-048-7
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