Leeds & West Yorkshire

Bradford Odeon's £1 sell-off: A landmark decision?

Bradford Odeon in 1938
Image caption Bradford's Odeon, pictured here in 1938, first opened its doors as the New Victoria in 1930 and remains a city landmark today

With the announcement that the former Bradford Odeon is to be bought by the city's council from its owners for just £1, more than a decade of uncertainty about the building's future could finally be over.

For generations of Bradford's paying public, stepping into the city's Odeon cinema underneath the building's landmark twin towers was, by all accounts, an unforgettable experience.

Whether they were there to see the latest movie blockbuster or the hottest bands on their way to the top of the pop charts, the Odeon was a place to see and be seen - as well as be entertained.

'Fantastic memories'

Though just bricks and mortar, the emotions felt about Bradford's Odeon became clear in the years following the cinema's closure in July 2000.

A long-running campaign calling for something to be done to halt the building's subsequent fall into disrepair, dereliction and even possible demolition, showed the depth of that emotion.

Image caption The structure of the former Odeon building has deteriorated since its closure in 2000

Once, it had been a focus for Bradford's film fans. Opening in 1930 as the New Victoria Cinema, it was transformed into the Gaumont in the 1950s before the Odeon chain took it over in 1969.

In its heyday as a music venue, it even echoed to the sounds of some of the biggest names of the time - both The Beatles and the Rolling Stones played there while on their way to becoming, as John Lennon put it, "the toppermost of the poppermost".

Mark Nicholson, from the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group, said it was a building "very close to the hearts of the people".

"They've identified with that building for many, many years and they've loved going there. They have fantastic memories," he said.

Peel tribute idea

However, with the closure of the cinema in 2000 - following the opening of a brand new multi-screen Odeon in nearby Thornbury - its doors were locked for what seemed to be the final time.

In the intervening years it has seemed - especially when green foliage began to emerge from the building's facade high above the city streets - that the former Odeon's time was finally up.

Image caption A £40m plan to redevelop the site into a hotel and leisure facilities was scrapped last year

Bought by regional development agency Yorkshire Forward in 2003, in the following decade a number of plans were put forward for its revival.

One proposal was to turn the former cinema into a music venue dedicated to late Radio 1 DJ John Peel, while another idea was to redevelop the building into a performing arts centre.

Meanwhile, the campaign to save the Odeon was well under way.

A protest in 2007 saw an estimated 1,000 people showing their feelings for the building by joining hands and hugging it.

The plan which came closest to reality was a £40m redevelopment of the site by developers Langtree Artisan, which would have seen the Odeon demolished and replaced by a 100-bed hotel, bars, cafes and leisure facilities.

'Secure future'

But, in September last year that scheme was finally scrapped after the Homes and Communities Agency took over the site following the abolition of Yorkshire Forward.

Image caption The Beatles played at the Odeon in Bradford, then the Gaumont, in 1963 and 1964

Seven months on, and the future of the former Odeon could finally be looking up.

David Green, Labour leader of Bradford City Council, said the authority's agreement to buy the site for £1 was "the end of a 10-year campaign by thousands of people in Bradford".

"Hopefully, we will have one or more workable plans which will secure the future of the building and come up with something of benefit to the district," he said.

In other words, it is now up to the people and businesses of Bradford to decide what happens next at this much-loved city landmark.

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