Odeon Sunderland

44 Holmeside,
Sunderland, SR1 3JE

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Showing 1 - 25 of 38 comments

terry on July 9, 2020 at 11:32 am

As highlighted in the article, it is heartening to see that the former Odeon/Black’s Regal still looks very ‘cinematic’ and that so many original features remain. It is regrettable, however, that they saw fit to remove the Compton organ……

Of course, Mecca are one of the few remaining operations owned by the once mighty Rank Organisation so one could argue that it has been under the same ownership since 1955.

Impressed as I am by the appearance of the building, I do not doubt for one moment that, given the opportunity, Rank/Mecca would vacate the building and move to new premises as they have done at the following locations:–

•Gateshead Odeon/Regal (sister cinema to Sunderland and now demolished).

•Stockton ABC Globe (undergoing restoration and arguably equal in architectural merit – or soon will be again – to Sunderland Odeon/Regal).

•Wallsend ABC Ritz (immaculately maintained, as in the case of Sunderland, but closed by Rank/Mecca and subsequently ruined by Wetherspoon’s).

•South Shields Odeon/Regal (demolished apart from FOH).

•South Shields Regent (attempt underway to preserve it but I do not care much for its chances).

Should the Sunderland venue ever cease to serve its current function it is unlikely that , as in the case of Stockton, it will be restored to theatrical use owing to the presence of the 2,000 capacity Empire Theatre so it is indeed to be hoped that Mecca continue to successfully operate their Bingo Club there.

terry on July 6, 2020 at 9:12 am

Interesting article below but, as always, with inaccuracies. The 1200 seats of screen 1 were not all in the former circle which seated 737. In the case of Sunderland, the front stalls was retained and this ‘overflow’ area (rarely used for films) brought the number one auditorium capacity up to 1200.

I was there with my very good friend, Manager, Brett Childes on the last night of operation and the films were:–

Screen 1: ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ (reissue) Screen 2: ‘The Empire Strikes Back’/’Star Wars’ (double bill) Screen 3: ‘Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions’

So, the Echo omits to mention the film showing in the main part of the building on the final day of operation of Sunderland’s finest cinema!

I completed the Business Report for Brett, one of the most decent and genuine people in the business, who understandably was upset by the finality of the Odeon. Afterwards he came back to our house in Shildon and stayed with us for a couple of hours or so chatting mainly with my Dad whose favourite cinema had always been Black’s Regal. I remember Brett telling my Dad that there were not many patrons in the main auditorium for ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ but that Screen 2 was full with the ‘Star Wars’ double bill. I don’t think he mentioned ‘Mary Millington’…..

Brett’s overall summing up to my Dad was “They could have saved the place, you know!”.


terry on February 22, 2017 at 9:50 am

Was this the show with ‘The Bachelors’ or Roy Castle? Either way, it would be interesting to see it and I wish I had known it was still at ABC South Shields when I was there, Dave! Would it be very expensive to have the 35mm filmlet you mention transferred to DVD and uploaded to YouTube?

DBage on February 22, 2017 at 1:43 am

Suppose it’s fate was secured because of the amount of theatres that already exist in Blackpool. We found an advertising reel in your former stomping ground (ABC South Shields) for the summer season at ABC Blackpool with Cilla Black featured, we used to often run it for private use. I think my friend might still have it on a reel.

(My apology too for straying from the attended use of this site, however the memories of the Odeon Sunderland evoked memories of other old cinemas that arose because of the said cinema).

terry on February 21, 2017 at 9:20 am

Thorn-EMI made a mess of Blackpool ABC when, in the tripling process, they isolated the stage (which had a revolve), dressing room block and front stalls all those years ago. It was all reversible, however, just in case the need for large capacities and stage spectaculars should ever return. The acquisition and closure by Odeon and subsequent conversion to ‘The Syndicate’ put paid to that, however.

DBage on February 21, 2017 at 8:50 am

I’m thinking the screen in the former ABC Blackpool must be of similar size to the screen at the Metrocentre Odeon screen 7, the widescreen is 60ft X 31ft. The ABC must’ve been very impressive. I only saw films in it once it had been twinned (or maybe tripled). You have a wealth of valuable memories Terry.

DBage on February 21, 2017 at 2:47 am

Wow Terry, thank you so much for the information. I’ll check the sites out on the computer as I’ll get a better image. Bet they were very impressive cinemas.

terry on February 20, 2017 at 10:14 pm

I have to agree about the screens in older cinemas often being rather on the small side in relation to the auditorium size. Where I worked with ABC (too numerous to list here) the screens were either very large or vice versa with no happy medium.

However, below are links to surviving footage of venues which had very large screens. In the case of Blackpool (ABC as opposed to the Princess where we also had 70mm) the screen is not seen but there are some distance shots of the 60 + feet wide pros which provide an indication of how large the screen was.

ABC Sheffield:–


Coliseum Cinerama Glasgow:–


ABC New Centre Bristol:–


ABC Blackpool (at 05:24):–


ABC Blackpool (First ever public performance of ‘Yesterday’ – watch out for star line up at the very end):–


My apologies for posting the above on a page devoted to an Odeon but a great deal of cross referencing does occur on the CT site……..

DBage on February 20, 2017 at 12:51 pm

I remember Big Daddy coming to The Savoy too, was packed. The odeon screen 1 screen was big, not many of the old cinemas had big screens but that one certainly did. All the ones I worked at had relatively small screens compared to the auditorium. Thankfully the new Odeon at Metrocentre has very large screens, incl an IMAX theatre, awesome!! The last cinema I worked at was Blyth and it is now a Wetherspoon pub but hasn’t changed much to when it was the cinema, a very sympathetic converion. I was projectionist there for many years, loved it.

southofgtown on February 16, 2017 at 8:40 am

I don’t think Fairworld took over the Newcastle Studio’s Dave, certainly not in my time in the NE (I moved away in 1993). Screen size I always appreciated the one we had in the Odeon Cinema 1, that was massive and we moved it a few times for events such as when Big Daddy and the other wrestlers of their time came to town. The thing weighed a ton, we did have a laugh moving it back into place so the Sat morning movie club could enjoy another session with Keith Chegwin in some role or other! I wish that we had done more shows and gigs at the Odeon, it had the capacity and the stage to have been so much more but there you go. I must try and get in to have a look around next time I’m up that way, take some pictures and relive the memory’s. I did get into the old ABC when it became a nightclub!! It looked like nothing on earth!

DBage on February 9, 2017 at 3:30 am

Not to sureJohn, I didn’t know any of them till they come to the savoy and then after it closed in 1984 for the final time, never saw them again. PS do you know if the Studios 1234 in Newcastle was also operated by Fairworld, I sometimes used to see the occasional film there, if I’d missed it at one of the bigger cinemas. Remember seeing Mahogony there, the Diana Ross film. They didn’t have very big screens, I think smaller than the one in my home cinema.

southofgtown on February 9, 2017 at 2:58 am

Ah yes those were the guys, nice bunch. My Dad would have been at the ABC when it became the Eros even though he loved the Studios he needed to move on and while at the time, the Studios were the jewel in the Fairworld crown I think its location was just in the wrong place. Did it remain the Eros for long??

DBage on February 8, 2017 at 2:16 pm

They also run/managed the cinema your dad worked at, The Studios although was named The Eros by then. I never knew where that cinema was.

DBage on February 8, 2017 at 2:13 pm

Ray Daines, Stuart ? (Hall maybe) and Bob Curtain.

southofgtown on February 8, 2017 at 7:50 am

Cheers Guys, some good comments and stirring of memory’s there! I remembered Terry and I discussing that his Dad had also been a Chief projectionist, as usual this was over pints in one of the pubs we all frequented after work before running off to catch the bus with the sound of 2-3 fresh pints glugging away as we ran! Never spilt a drop!! As Lawrence mentioned we did socialise after work and the cinema managers at Shield’s used to hire the local pub for an after work party once a month, it must be said that was great. I must ask, Gogsy and Dave who were those management guys, I have a Ray in my mind but either way they had a great approach and a unique style to cinema management. When it came to me moving on to another job in Durham at the Classic they organised a whip round, bought the presents and made me feel like a departing son rather than someone deserting the sinking ship. About a month later they called me back and gave me a big wad of cash from a tax rebate, it was totally unexpected, we sat down, chatted how my new job was going and I felt they genuinely cared. A great crew. Gogsy, I was sad to hear about Vera, she was on the ball with her sense of humour and the pair of you made a great team, so sorry for your loss mate. Mr Bage, retired at 55, go get a paper round! I’m 56 this year and would hate to be retired, these are the best part of your life and social interaction on a daily basis paramount to enjoying life. If your going to sit about then start writing a fictional book, talk about cinema’s, the unique bits, the people, their lives and how we interacted, the small feuds, the glory days of queue’s around the block or playing a 3 hour movie to one sleeping pensioner on a new years eve, write something about the growth of poverty that bled out of the miner’s strike that placed a noose around many a cinema. This could be called your “Boy’s from the Celluloid” moment. Best do it before Terry, Gogsy and I beat you to it! I’m sure one of us could produce something to match “Cinema Paradiso” or am I looking at this with Technicolor eyes?? Cheers Guys, keep the faith!

DBage on February 6, 2017 at 1:48 pm

I can just remember Peggy. That was a nice cinema. No, I don’t work anymore, retired at 55 which was always the plan but I do like going to the cinema still and really like the Odeon at the metrocentre, it’s a very nice cinema with excellent sound and massive screens, I go a couple times a week and to feed my love of cinema and projection, I’ve got a cinema at home, it' really satisfies my love for the business and I entertain friends in it. Sad to tell you that Lawrence and Vera divorced although they remained great friends till Vera died a few years ago, that was a shock. Been nice catching up with you and hope life’s treating you very well.

terry on February 6, 2017 at 10:29 am

Needless to say, I have very happy memories of Sunderland Odeon which was one of the most impressive and best equipped venues in the country. It was the favourite cinema of both my Mum and Dad and they remembered going there (Blacks' Regal) in the 1930’s when, as part of the programme, there were stage presentations and recitals at the Compton Organ. I think my Dad said the Musical Director was Arnold Eagle.

For the record, my Dad had been a Chief Projectionist at one time and he was trained by a Gaumont man by the name of Tommy Bell who later worked for Blacks as Co-Chief at the Regal before transferring to the Royal on Bedford Street as the Chief where he was very much at home.

When I used to ask my Dad how the ABC Ritz compared with Blacks Regal he would reply that he would have liked the Ritz more if , at the 11th hour, ABC had not cancelled the Compton organ which it was designed to house (the chambers were above the proscenium).

I always got the impression that, large as the Ritz was at just over 1900 seats, the original project had been scaled down by the time the final plans were drawn up and building work commenced. I mention this as, in towns of similar size with cinemas like the Regal already established, ABC invariably provided a theatre with well in excess of 2000 seats, a fully equipped stage, a restaurant – and an organ! I wonder what went wrong in Sunderland?

I have happy memories of your Dad, John, by the way and our ‘after work pints’ in the likes of ‘The Park Inn’ and ‘The Beehive’……

Gogsy on February 6, 2017 at 5:57 am

Hi John,great to see your still out and about and doing well,I have some very fond memories of you at the Savoy.We had some laughs with David and the Staff,I still have our log book and have some photos of you in action!

southofgtown on February 6, 2017 at 3:51 am

Wow! Small world, I remember you coming through to the Cannon Classic in Durham in ‘84 to see Peggy the manager, that must have been the last time we met up. Yes, the show in South Shields, we had some good fun with the cast and the team we had in the cinema was all shiny and new. It was strange to start work at a cinema and spend the first couple of weeks removing the balcony seats and working up on a gantry controlling the curtains for a pantomime! Anyway, glad to see you stayed in the business, are you still involved in it? The spy who loved me! I showed that at the Odeon all those years ago, there was always an excitement when a new Bond came out and the first weeks queue’s went round the corner, sadly it was only the 1st week and the full houses soon stopped. As a child I remember standing in the rain to see a film, the queue went all the way out of the cinema along the back lane and wound its way to the back doors of the ABC, sadly those days had gone by the time I was an adult! Pass my best to Lawrence, hope he’s still with his wife from back in the day, they were a nice close couple and suited each other. All the best.

DBage on February 5, 2017 at 5:28 pm

PS. Was telling Lawrence about your post on this site.

DBage on February 5, 2017 at 12:52 pm

hello southofgtown, been great reading your memories of working in the cinema business and for a while our paths crossed when we both worked at The Savoy Entertainment Centre in South Shields. I went on to working at The Wallaw Blyth for 13-14 years, firstly on front of house and then when it became a 3 screen cinema, as projectionist. I also worked briefly for Warner Bros at their site in Bury, Manchester as Manager, but sadly couldnt settle into the role or venue, so back I came to the North East. I remember with fond affection visiting the Odeon Sunderland as a customer, with my cousin to see a few films, one being James Bond, The Spy who loved me, great film. It has been a pleasure to read your message, I have fond memories of your lyrics to a song from the panto at The Savoy ‘why does everybody call me’ and dont think ill ever forget the little limerick ‘keep your trousers up’,I know it off bat and this must be 30yrs+. David.

southofgtown on February 1, 2017 at 9:59 am

PS Forgot to say, Hello Terry, hope your well, remember you well, Dad thought well of you and enjoyed the after work beers we used to have, all the best, John

southofgtown on February 1, 2017 at 9:31 am

I worked at this cinema for 5 years up until it closed, Richard Carlisle, Billy Souter and Keith (sorry the surname is lost in time to me) were the last of the cinema projectionists to see the place out. I was 17 when I started and worked with some great people there, along with the cinema stuff we also had a couple of wrestling bouts and a couple of “God” rock concerts to go with the aforementioned Organ concerts. It was a great shame to see the cinema close but due to times being tough in the area and the high tariffs put onto showing films by the movie companies the life was taken out of the business. Indeed when I was made redundant from the Odeon it took me 18 months to get back on my feet again and find a job when they re-opened the cinema in Ocean Road South Shields, thank god for the guys who invested in that place. All in all, I remember the Odeon, its staff, the laughs we all had, the trainee from the ABC who came down for a box of 35mm perforations as they’d been supplied a film reel without any (thank you for sending him over knacker-Ned!),beers in the Blandford and the Beehive pub’s and the close-knit team we had. I thank my Dad (one of the greatest cinema projectionists to grace the cinema’s of Sunderland!!), for initially training me up down at the Studio’s 1 and 2 in 1977. Working with him was a great experience for any father and son (I paid him back when I got him a job on the Cruise Liners!). You know what, though the cinema’s as I remember them are long gone, without them I wouldn’t have had the good life I have, without the people I wouldn’t be who I am now and I am so lucky and proud to say that I worked in the industry. I could tell you more about my upbringing and spending summers on the rooftops of Studio 1 and 2, coming in when it rained and watching a film in Studio one in what was for years my family’s private viewing balcony but they are my memories, cheers for reading.

terry on March 22, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Manager, Brett Childes invited me to the last night of the Odeon in 1982; the theatre, until latterly, had had two Assistant Managers but at the very end there was only Brett and a Local Assistant, Pam Freer who was always off at the weekends.

The large Screen 1 , with the umpteenth rerun of ‘One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest’, was sparsely attended and I remember seeing a group of people in the circle taking ‘last night’ photos of the still impressive auditorium. Screen 2 , with the ‘Star Wars’ double bill, was full to capacity (good to see) and,if my memory serves me correctly, even the rather raunchy fare in Screen 3 was quite well attended.

I was a Manager with rival ABC and I was either on holiday or had the weekend off (we had one in four weekends at that time). Brett asked me to help him with the final returns in the General Office which, being not unlike ABC’s, was not a problem. So, for the record, the very last Business Report of the Odeon was completed by an ABC employee!

I am sure that the late Brett Childes would not mind my adding this piece of irony, given that it is now almost 34 years ago……

Re the 50th Anniversary show with Phil Kelsall, I have done a rethink (and some checking with the Sunderland Theatre Organ Preservation Society who now own the Compton) and I was actually present at both that and the previous year’s with Douglas Reeve.

Phil Kelsall played a medley from “ a forthcoming Summer release here at the Odeon Film Centre, ‘ANNIE’”. Sadly, the Odeon had closed before that film’s release and thus ‘Annie’ played at the ABC………

terry on March 22, 2016 at 4:48 pm

Auditorium photo uploaded.