Empire, Sutton Coldfield
One of three Odeons opened in the April of 1936, the Sutton Coldfield is a prime example of the Odeon style. Designed by John Cecil Clavering, it features the characteristic faience panels and a vertical tower. Its distinctive curved corner entrance was copied by the same architect in his design for the Harrogate Odeon, which opened five months later. The building was awarded Grade II listing status in 1998, and until recently it was one of the few original Odeons still operating as a cinema.
Originally comprised of a single screen, the cinema was split up into three screens in 1972, with a fourth screen added later in 1998.
As a condition of a 2004 merger imposed by the Office of Fair Trading, it was sold to Empire Cinemas in 2005, becoming a part of Empire’s first expansion outside Ireland.
After a temporary closure due to Covid-19 restrictions in 2020, the cinema was closed indefinitely due to the need for extensive refurbishment. The building went on the market after Empire Cinemas went into administration in July 2023.
Maney Corner, Birmingham Road, Sutton Coldfield, B72 1QL
A behind-the-scenes tour of the Empire in early 2020 from Birmingham TV.
“Harrogate and Sutton Coldfield are examples of the Odeon style at its zenith.”
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“I was assistant manager at the theatre in 1974-75 and two memories spring to mind. Fred was a projectionist at the Odeon then he is now chief projectionist at Coventry Odeon. He used to wander through the foyer, where queues for the three screens would stand at the paybox. He would size them up and comment “Screen two what a load of rubbish that film is! Screen three’s much better, and screen one is all right if you like colourful junk,” and so on. Believe it or not, patrons would actually change from one queue to another. My final week at Sutton Odeon was memorable. “The Towering Inferno” was being shown and we had two bomb scares one evening. One member of the audience commented: “Oh, is this part of the film then? I like it!” I didn’t! Another phone call came an hour later. Enough was enough – I shut the show down, issuing tickets for the following evening’s performance. Yes, Sutton Odeon gave me a good training ground in public relations and stood me in good stead for an eventual career as a successful author and broadcaster.”