Preston fire: Future of city’s fire-ravaged Odeon cinema/nightclub finally decided

Hopes of saving the art deco frontage of the fire-ravaged Odeon Cinema in Preston have been dashed with news that the entire building needs pulling down.

By Brian Ellis
Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 1:33 pm

Demolition work has already flattened the rear of the former cinema/nightclub which was left in a dangerous state after the inferno almost a month ago.

Now owners The Rigby Group Ltd have applied to the city council for permission to bulldoze the rest of it on safety grounds.

Experts say there are fears that intruders could still gain access to what is left of the Odeon complex, putting themselves in danger.

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The iconic Odeon building now looks set to be flattened.

So plans are in place to knock it down, along with two adjacent shop premises - a takeaway and a bookmaker's.

The recently opened Hopwoods bar on the other side of the building, which is separated from it by an alleyway, will be unaffected.

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The devastating fire on May 19 was the second blaze in the empty building in just five days. A previous arson attack was quickly brought under control by fire crews.

Demolition work at the rear has left the remainder of the building at risk of intruders.

Police later arrested three boys - one aged 16 and the others 14 - in connection with the incident. They were all released pending further investigations.

A joint police and fire brigade probe is also going on into two more blazes - at the former St Joseph's Orphanage in Mount Street and the old BHS store in Fishergate - which also happened over the same three-week period.

Firefighters managed to prevent the devastating second Odeon fire from reaching the very front of the building which was only affected by smoke.

But safety experts now say the remainder of the property is beyond repair and cannot be saved.

The distinctive art deco frontage will bite the dust after experts said it cannot be saved.

A report to the council's planning department says: "The proposed demolition of the remainder of the buildings would assist in making the site safe and secure again.

"The existing buildings in their current state are beyond repair. The current condition of the buildings would not allow for conversion and as such, any future use of the site would need to be new build.

"Currently, the extent of demolition works that are being undertaken in the case of the extraordinary circumstances, will not allow for the site to be secure.

"The lack of security could result in potential health and safety risks to members of the public who may have the opportunity to access the site without authorisation."

The Odeon showed its last film in 1992 after 64 years as one of Preston's premier cinemas.

It began life as the New Victoria in 1928. It could house an audience of around 2,000 and had a full orchestra and Wurlitzer organ during the days of silent movies.

It became the Gaumont in the 1930s and remained so until 1963 when it was renamed the Odeon after the Rank Organisation had spent £250,000 the previous year to turn the building into a multi-purpose entertainment centre, with a dance hall called the Top Rank.

In 1970 a second, smaller screen, Odeon 2, was added with just 112 seats.

But it closed as a cinema in September 1992, leaving just the nightclub which was called Clouds. It became Tokyo Jo's, Lava and Ignite and eventually Evoque before it too shut down in 2020.