Oscar Deutsch

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Odeon cinema in Harrogate, showing the logo used from mid 1990s

Oscar Deutsch (12 August 1893 – 5 December 1941)[1] was a British-Hungarian businessman. He was the founder of Odeon Cinemas in 1928, with the flagship cinema, the Odeon, Leicester Square in London, opening in 1937.

Life and career[edit]

Deutsch was born in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, Warwickshire, the son of Leopold Deutsch, a successful Hungarian Jewish scrap metal merchant.[2] After attending King Edward VI Five Ways Grammar School, he started work at his father's metal firm in Birmingham. In 1918, he married and went on to have three sons. In 1925, he rented cinemas in Wolverhampton and Coventry and started exhibiting subsequent runs of films.[3][4] He opened his first cinema in nearby Brierley Hill, Dudley in 1928. By 1933 he had 26 Odeons and "Odeon" had started to become a household word, used interchangeably with "cinema" in some parts of the UK until after the Second World War.

By 1937 there were 250 Odeons, including the flagship cinema in Leicester Square, London, making Odeon one of the three major circuits in the UK. Odeon cinemas were considered more comfortable and respectable for middle-class filmgoers than those of the two other circuits, Associated British Cinemas (ABC) and Gaumont-British Cinemas. Odeons were known for their art deco architecture, first used on the Odeon, Kingstanding to a design by Cecil Clavering, working for Harry Weedon. Although Clavering only designed three further Odeons, at Sutton Coldfield, Colwyn Bay and Scarborough, "one masterpiece after the other"[5] considered "the finest expressions of the Odeon circuit style".[6] Later in 1935, however, Clavering stunned Weedon by resigning to take up a job with the Office of Works. Weedon approached Clavering's former tutor who recommended Robert Bullivant as Clavering's replacement[7] and Weedon was commissioned by Deutsch to oversee the design of the entire chain.

He became a director of the UK arm of United Artists, who had acquired a 50% stake in Odeon Cinema Holdings.[4]

In 1941, a bomb landed on his home and he was blown out of bed and never recovered.[4]

After Deutsch died of cancer in 1941, his widow sold the Odeon chain to J. Arthur Rank and it became part of the Rank Organisation, who also bought, but managed separately, Gaumont-British Cinemas.

Origin of "Odeon"[edit]

The original Odeons were the popular amphitheatres of ancient Greece. The name Odeon had been appropriated by cinemas in France and Italy in the 1920s, but Deutsch made it his own in the UK. His publicity team claimed Odeon stood for "Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation".[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allen Eyles, ‘Deutsch, Oscar (1893–1941)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 29 April 2011
  2. ^ "Variety Club - Jewish Chronicle colour supplement "350 years"". The Jewish Chronicle. London. 15 December 2006. pp. 28–29.
  3. ^ "Mr. Oscar Deutsch". The Times. 6 December 1941. p. 6.
  4. ^ a b c "Obituary: Oscar Deutsch". Daily Variety. 8 October 1941. p. 7.
  5. ^ Glancey, Jonathan (18 May 2002). "The mogul's monuments: How Oscar Deutsch's Odeon cinemas taught Britain to love modern architecture". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 June 2008. With Weedon in Deutsch's stride, the Odeon chain produced one masterpiece after the other: Sutton Coldfield, Scarborough, Colwyn Bay
  6. ^ Eyles, Allen (2 January 2002). "Obituary: J. Cecil Clavering". The Independent. London. p. 6. Retrieved 14 June 2008. The exteriors of the Kingstanding and Sutton Coldfield Odeons were the finest expressions of the Odeon circuit style ... However, the style that Clavering had so brilliantly established was gradually coarsened and diluted in the later Weedon output - excepting the Odeon Harrogate, a replica of Sutton Coldfield[dead link]
  7. ^ Atwell, David (1980). Cathedrals of the Movies: a History of British Cinemas and Their Audiences. London: Architectural Press. ISBN 0-85139-562-7.

Further reading[edit]

  • Eyles, Allen Odeon Cinemas - Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation. London: British Film Institute 2001 ISBN 0-85170-813-7

External links[edit]