The Odeon

This morning I almost managed to get to work without taking a photo. But not quite. I spotted this. The Odeon’s roof was dangling above Manchester and Tuam Streets.

The Odeon's roofThe Odeon's roof
The Odeon's roof
The Odeon's roof

The Odeon has an interesting history. It was originally the Tuam Street public hall, designed in the early 1880s by T.S. Lambert (d. 1915) and opened on 20 July 1883. It seated 2,200 including a gallery seating 600. It became the Opera House in July 1894.

Benjamin Fuller (1875-1952) moved in on 19 February 1903, presenting vaudeville. John Fuller and Sons bought the theatre in 1904. In 1927 E.S. Luttrell (1872-1932) reshaped the interior and the New Opera House opened on 26 December. There were 19 dressing rooms.

It became a movie theatre in 1930 and was renamed the St James, managed by Kerridge-Odeon. The stage was retained and the building was used occasionally for live entertainment. On 29 September 1960 it became the Odeon. It had been extensively altered and seated 720. 600 stalls made way for a coffee lounge. Fullers finally sold the building to Kerridge-Odeon in November 1978.

The Odeon
The Odeon, July 2012

Christchurch Assembly of God bought the building in 1985 and re-opened it in October 1985 as their place of worship. In November 2003 it was sold to a group of Christchurch business people. In late 2006 the theatre was bought by Dave Henderson, a local property developer, for $1.335m. First mortgagee Allied Nationwide Finance ordered its sale in late 2009.

Read more about the Odeon on the wonderful Canterbury Film Society website.

Public hall (later St James Theatre), Tuam Street, Christchurch
[ca. 1885]
View of Tuam Street, Christchurch, to the east [ca. 1884]

8 thoughts on “The Odeon

  1. Sarah 10 September 2012 / 11:06 am

    Great article, sure had lots of history

  2. Pop 10 September 2012 / 12:00 pm

    Brilliant stuff,really interesting to add detail to the brief information you could recall

  3. Robyn 10 September 2012 / 12:51 pm

    The Odeon was a really flash picture theatre, I want to say the tickets were more expensive there than at other theatres but I may be making that up. I remember the palatial women’s toilets and their expansive mirrors fondly. Also I think we went on a school trip to see a mutli-screen extravanaza displaying the beauties of New Zealand that had played at an Expo (I have just checked and it was at Osaka in 1970 and was called This is New Zealand). Does anyone else remember seeing it at The Odeon?

    • Robyn 11 September 2012 / 10:39 am

      Apparently there were only a few theatres in New Zealand that could show it – The Embassy was first and people queued along Kent Terrace. They had to take six rows of seats out in Dundedin to accommodate the special equipment necessary.

  4. Russell Campbell 27 February 2013 / 2:39 pm

    Most interested to learn about the fate of the lovely old Odeon. I was projectionist there between !966 and 1972 and have very happy memories of what was proberly the end of the golden age for going to the pictures. Ithink the difference in ticket prices may have been because the projection equipment was capable of screening 70mm which was the big event then. For the screenings of “This Is New Zealand” seats were removed from the rear of the stalls to build a projection room which housed 3 35mm projectors which had been used at Osaka and another 35 projector which was used for the film “This Is Expo” The crowds were huge from 10am six days a week every hour on the hour. The audiences were enthralled and thrilled with pride in our country. 1969 was a big year for the Odeon with in 11 months just 3 films screened. “Oliver”, “McKenna’s Gold” and “Funny Girl”. “McKenna’s Gold” was in 70mm. I have many fond memories of the Odeon just like the patrons had. Sad to see the final days of the theatre after all the joy it gave to Christchurch for all it’s life.

    • Donna 27 February 2013 / 2:54 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and memories Russell. I’m so glad you did!

  5. Monica 26 May 2013 / 11:09 pm

    Its disgusting that the CCDU want to turn it into ECANS carpark.

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