Save the old Odeon cinema building on Clerk Street in Edinburgh!

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New Victoria/Odeon Cinema, Edinburgh

New Victoria/Odeon Cinema, Edinburgh

[Courtesy Save the old Odeon Cinema]

First known as the New Victoria, the cinema was built by William Trent in 1930. It houses a magnificent auditorium with Scotland’s largest and grandest proscenium arch. The sidewalls have niches with sculptures of the muses of art, music and drama (designed by the artist Beattie), and the ceiling is studded with stars that represent the Milky Way.

This beautiful building is ‘the best surviving example of architecture of its time’ in the UK, according to the Cinema Theatre Association.

The present owners, a property development company called Duddingston House Properties, want to demolish the auditorium to convert the building into a boutique hotel. In December 2008, they received permission from the City of Edinburgh Council for their plans. They are now waiting for the go-ahead from Historic Scotland.

This building is B-listed and on the Register of Buildings At Risk. The Edinburgh Council were considering an A-listed grading when DHP put in their planning application, which put a halt to the upgrading process.

Historic Scotland has confirmed that they will pass their decision over the next few days. If Historic Scotland passes DHP’s plans, we risk losing a national treasure.

Historic Scotland has been informed by DHP and Edinburgh City Council that ‘there is no sustainable economically viable use for the building assuming retention of the auditorium’. This is quoted from a report prepared by Montagu-Evans for Edinburgh City Council. However, nobody interested in acquiring and restoring the building was consulted in the preparation of this report. No feasibility study has been carried out to test the viability of retaining the auditorium as either a theatre or a cinema.

The building itself is enormous. Alongside the cinemas, there is masses of useable space within the existing building, as well as land behind the building (where the original queue shelter stood), backing onto Buccleuch Street. This space can be converted into a major digital media access centre, a digital film library, and a Scottish art gallery. With a café-bar and restaurant, this could turn into an economically viable and vibrant space for the community and a nationally important creative hub for artists and filmmakers.

Please help save the old Odeon cinema. Please sign the petition or write directly to Historic Scotland at: Historic Scotland, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Edinburgh
EH9 1SH. Or phone Historic Scotland at 0131 668 8600.

Please pass on this group to as many people as quickly as possible, because we are battling against time.

To: John Graham (Chief Executive of Historic Scotland)
CC: Mike Russell (Scotland’s Culture Minister)
Dear John Graham,

You are currently considering plans submitted by Duddingston House Properties (DHP) to partially demolish 7 Clerk Street (formerly known as the New Victoria Cinema or the Odeon Cinema) to make way for a boutique hotel.

You have described this building as Edinburgh’s ‘finest surviving cinema building’, and you are also on record claiming the building is worthy of category ‘A’ listing (currently ‘B’ listed). The Cinema Theatre Association believes it is the ‘best surviving example of architecture of its time’ in the UK. The building houses a magnificent auditorium with Scotland’s largest and grandest proscenium arch. This is now at risk of being demolished.

DHP and Edinburgh City Council claim the best viable option for the building is to demolish the auditorium. However, no feasibility study has taken place to seriously consider options for using the building as it stands, ie, as a five-screen cinema or a single-auditorium theatre.

We the undersigned urge you don’t permit the auditorium to be demolished. Please preserve our architectural heritage for the present and future generations. This building holds enough potential for use as a cinema or theatre, as an exciting national hub for creative activity, as it stands, without any need to demolish the auditorium.

Please protect this unique building, and of the UK’s most beautiful auditoriums.

Petition to sign here….

Would be a real shame to see the old place go……

About the author

The Editor

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts, an International Journal for the Arts and The Berkshire Review, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

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