The untold history of the Gants Hill Odeon
- Credit: Eastside Community Heritage
In this week’s heritage column, Rochelle Scholar from Eastside Community Heritage, tells the story of Redbridge’s most missed buildings.
The Odeon Cinema stood for 69 years near Gants Hill Roundabout, boarded by Eastern Avenue and Perth Road.
Originally built as The Savoy Cinema and designed by George Coles, The Savoy opened on September 3, 1934. Its opening night was a double-header, with Greta Garbo in Queen Christina and Ruth Chatterton in Journal of a Crime.
With plush seating in both the stalls and the dress circle, this was a state-of-the-art venue. There was a large 27ft-deep stage, the proscenium was an astonishing 38ft-wide and the backstage area boasted five dressing rooms.
The venue even included a restaurant that catered for both the star turns who came to take part in a show and members of the general public.
In 1936, the Savoy Cinema chain was taken over by General Cinema Finance Corporation (GFC), which had been founded by J. Arthur Rank, and was subsequently taken over by the Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres Ltd in 1943.
By 1949, the Savoy’s new owners decided to make a change and the prestigious cinema was renamed the Odeon.
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However, despite its long history, many people may not know the Odeon’s longstanding connection with the Jewish community in Redbridge.
Not only was the Odeon a primary entertainment venue, it was also a place of worship from 1959.
The Jewish community in Redbridge was growing and the local synagogues were filled to capacity on the Jewish High Holy Days, so a collaboration with the Ilford Synagogue was begun, which lasted 21 years.
Seating more than 1,000 people, the Odeon was used as the main synagogue while Ilford Synagogue, in Beehive Lane, housed the overflow.
In 1981, the Odeon was converted into a three-screen cinema and was no longer suitable for the High Holy Days’ services.
Sadly, as the Jewish community waned over the ensuing years, so too did cinemagoers, and this iconic building and borough landmark was demolished in 2003 to make way for flats.
The memories recorded for this project will form part of an exhibition in early 2017.
For further information about the project, contact email@example.com.