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ODEON, Swiss Cottage
(1937 - )
96 Finchley Road, London NW3

The Odeon is situated on an island site close to Swiss Cottage Underground station and the Swiss Cottage pub. It was opened on 4th September 1937 in the presence of Merle Oberon, Conrad Veidt, Alexander Korda, the Maharajah of Jaipur, Oscar Deutsch (who founded the Odeon chain) and the architect Harry Weedon. It had 1281 stalls seats and 834 in the circle. The film on opening day was Farewell Again starring Flora Robson and Leslie Banks. After the film the guests danced on the stage until past midnight.

I visited the cinema fairly regularly in the late Fifties when I lived at Childs Hill, before it became converted to multi-screen working in 1973. This resulted in three smaller screens of 780, 109 and 105 seats respectively. The conversion cost £35,000, which seems a miniscule sum by today's standards. The Odeon escaped demolition and redevelopment in 1986 and six years later added another 3 screens to the total, at a cost this time of £600,000, the new complex being opened by local MP and former star Glenda Jackson. At least one screen was kept open at all times during the conversion.

No doubt cinema architecture buffs enthuse over Swiss Cottage Odeon; for me it has all the aesthetic charm of a tram depot. But as a cinema it's marvellous - clean, comfortable and well-appointed. Just a few stops away on the Jubilee Line, it's still my local cinema and an excellent place to see new releases.

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