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Description: Former Odeon Cinema
Date Listed: 26 March 1990
English Heritage Building ID: 201964
OS Grid Reference: TQ2336678361
OS Grid Coordinates: 523366, 178361
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4907, -0.2244
333/6/656 QUEEN CAROLINE STREET
26-MAR-90 (Southeast side)
FORMER ODEON CINEMA
(Formerly listed as:
QUEEN CAROLINE ROAD
CARLING APOLLO THEATRE)
(Formerly listed as:
QUEEN CAROLINE ROAD
Former Gaumont cinema, now live music venue. 1932 to the designs of Robert Cromie.
MATERIALS: Load-bearing brick and part steel frame construction, clad in brick with artificial stone dressings to curved centrepiece and rendered ground floor forming a plinth to the composition.
PLAN: Fan-shaped plan with foyer on two levels leading to double-height auditorium with large circle.
EXTERIOR: Two storey centre with fifteen giant engaged columns flanked by a slightly projecting pavilion at each side. Below, under canopy, are nine original pairs of double doors separated by piers; fire exits in pairs to side. Inner doors similarly survive. Set-back flanks with vertical bands inset with glazing. The largely obscured side and rear elevations are not of special interest.
INTERIOR: The main interior spaces are remarkably well preserved. Curved inner foyer the length of the main front, on two levels with central well under coved ceiling, balanced by coved cornices to side and with ventilation grilles in ceiling. Lower foyer has simple coving with trabeation around well, and murals by Newbury Abbot Trent. Dog-leg staircases rise at either end, with brass-finished balustrading and radiator grilles, inset mirrors and hanging glass light-fittings. Upper foyer has cyma-moulded niches to side walls; thick columns on separate what is now a bar area. Plaster decoration is by Clarke and Fenn. Etched glazed screens at either end shield the stairs.
Fine Art Deco auditorium has a deliberately simple moulded proscenium with grille concealing organ pipes above, an unusual arrangement. The 1932 Compton organ console was reinstated, following restoration, in 2007. It is installed in a lift shaft to rise to its playing position at the front of the stage as its original position was in an orchestra pit which has since been covered by the extension of the stage. Fluted side walls have exit doors surrounded by stepped moulded surround with fluted key stone and surmounted by aediculed, attenuated niche incorporating columns in antis. This niche, a distinctive Cromie feature akin to those on the exterior, breaks through the deep cornice. Broad balcony front with shallow relief decoration. Elaborate shallow coves and original light fittings on underside of balcony. Deep cove to main ceiling in two main stages above deep, fluted cornice, incorporating between them the former projection box, an unusual location distinctive to the most important early Gaumont cinemas. Shallower but equally decorated cove over anteproscenium incorporating laylight. Backstage areas, including dressing rooms and offices are not of special interest.
HISTORY: The Gaumont Palace was originally commissioned for the Davis Company, which explains why the architect was Robert Cromie, who had earlier designed the massive (and demolished) Davis Cinema in Croydon. However, the Hammersmith scheme was taken over by Gaumont in 1930, before construction began. Its preservation as a single auditorium, even with most of its seating, is rare for a building of this size, and the richness of mouldings and fixtures - light fittings, reliefs and glass - add an unusual opulence. The Art Deco mouldings of the shallow aedicules on the walls are typical of Cromie's work, but other elements of the design are typical of the Gaumont circuit, especially the Newbury A Trent reliefs and the deep ceiling coves that incorporate the projection box. But the building is also novel in its planning. The circle is noted for its great width, suspended on an iron girder of 56 tons that was unique at the time. The ability to thus seat such a large audience (up to 3,579) so close to the stage, yet with little overhang, is the key to the building's success as a concert venue. The building was noted nevertheless for its economical use of steel by combining steel framing with load-bearing brick that gives the building unusual strength. Robert Cromie worked for Bertie Crewe between 1910 and 1914 and so had an excellent training in theatre planning. He went on to work on the rebuilding of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1922; the demolition of the Davis and most of his later cinemas for the Union Circuit has left the Hammersmith example as his most important cinema. The Apollo starred as the Grand, Sloughborough, in the film The Smallest Show on Earth (1956), starring Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers and Margaret Rutherford, a measure of its commanding presence. In recent years it has again become renowned as a music venue. David Atwell commented that 'it is an Art Deco accomplishment second only to the New Victoria'.
David Atwell, Cathedrals of the Movies (1979).
John Earl and Michael Sell, eds., The Theatres Trust Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950 (2000) pp.114-15
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION:
* Architectural interest: a fine example of a 1930s Art Deco style cinema with elaborate decoration that survives largely unaltered due to its later use as a concert venue;
* Historic interest: as the best surviving cinema of the noted theatre and cinema architect, Robert Cromie. Since the 1960s the building has obtained an iconic status as a venue for popular music;
* Technical interest: notable for its economical use of steel by combining steel framing with load-bearing brick and its extremely wide circle;
* Organ: contains a rare working example of an original Compton organ with the organ pipes unusually located above the stage.
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.