Preston fire: The future of the city’s fire-ravaged Odeon cinema / nightclub has finally been decided

Demolition work has already leveled the back of the old cinema/nightclub left in a dangerous state after the fire almost a month ago.

Now owners The Rigby Group Ltd have asked the council for permission to raze the rest for safety reasons.

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

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There were hopes that the art deco facade could be saved.

Plans are therefore in place to demolish it, along with two adjacent shops – a takeaway and a bookie.

The recently opened Hopwoods bar on the other side of the building, which is separated by an alleyway, will not be affected.

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Preston fire: Cost of Odeon and Tokyo Jo fire rise as downtown business…

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

Demolition work at the rear left the rest of the building at risk of intruders.

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

A joint police and fire investigation is also underway into two other fires – at the former St Joseph’s Orphanage in Mount Street and the former BHS store in Fishergate – which also occurred during the same period of three weeks.

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

But security experts now say the rest of the property is beyond repair and cannot be saved.

The Odeon at its peak.

A report to the council’s planning department says: “The proposed demolition of the remainder of the buildings would help make the site safe and secure again.

“The existing buildings in their current condition are beyond repair. The current condition of the buildings would not allow for conversion and as such any future use of the site would have to be new construction.

“Currently, the extent of the demolition work which is undertaken in the event of extraordinary circumstances, will not make it possible to secure the site.

“The lack of security could lead to potential health and safety risks to members of the public who may have the ability to access the site without permission.”

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

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

It became the Gaumont in the 1930s and remained so until 1963 when it was renamed Odéon after the Rank Organization had spent £250,000 the previous year to convert 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 only 112 seats.

But it closed as a cinema in September 1992, leaving only the nightclub which was called Clouds. It became Tokyo Jo’s, Lava and Ignite and eventually Evoque before it also closed in 2020.

About James K. Bonnette

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