Close behind Hellingly Asylum on the 'locations I never thought I would find myself standing in again' list was, and always has been, the Aylesbury Odeon. Back in January 2010 I met a certain bloke called Landie Man for the first time, and accompanied by TBM, we headed off to explore the old Odeon cinema in Aylesbury which at that time was a bit of a piss easy explore and had a lot of traffic. However a fire in mid-2010 (which we initially all thought was set in the lobby until today when we realised it was actually a cluster of seats in the main screen which got set alight) saw the place comprehensively sealed with steel sheeting, and a PIR placed inside the lobby to add an extra bit of deterrent to people wanting to go inside.
Rewind to earlier this week and I get a series of slightly frantic messages off Landie Man who exclaimed quite proudly that it was doable again. Also that I should get down there quick as it could be sealed up at any time, the last time there was a viable access point it was sealed up within 24 hours better than it had been before. So we cobbled together a quick, slightly ludicrous plan which involved getting up at something silly o'clock in the morning before the adjacent Sainsbury's opened, and also involved attaching a banner to the top opposing the imminent demolition of the place in order to create an expanded Sainsbury's supermarket.
At way too early o'clock we made the short trip from Landie's house and were instantly confronted with problem #1 - we hadn't factored in the early morning deliveries of goods to the Sainsbury's, of which the delivery entrance looks out directly to the fence surrounding the cinema. Seeing a truck unloading we buggered off to the 24hr McDonald's for a bit, and after being cornered by a very loud but friendly homeless person drinking cheap red wine inside the Maccy D's for half an hour we headed back...only to be confronted by not one but two trucks now in the bays! After more aimless wandering in the dim hours of the early morning, we finally saw the last truck leave and after nearly 2 hours of buggering about we made our run for it and got over the fence unseen, just. Problem #2 was navigating the jungle of undergrowth on the other side of the fence, which involved a fair amount of crawling and swearing but was manageable. As we made our entrance into the cinema proper, I personally couldn't believe I was stood inside it after over five and a half years of waiting for it to open up again.
We did the smaller two screens and double projection room no problem, but then we were presented with problem #3 - getting to the big main screen involved having to go through the foyer, and neither of us knew where the alarm was or if it was even still active. Harry had already set it off once before when it was last accessible for a day, and beat a hasty retreat. After a lot of debating how to approach it and either through dumb luck or good fortune we didn't set it off, so we managed to get all three screens shot unhindered. Unfortunately as we had no idea where the alarm was situated we didn't want to test our good fortune too much so didn't shoot anything in the base of the lobby lest we accidentally wandered into it.
And to top it off, we got the banner onto the roof, in broad daylight - turns out wearing a high vis that says 'Aylesbury Town Council' on the back really does make you invisible! As the place has been sealed for so long I really didn't notice much more damage than there was in January 2010 which was nice.
One of the original Oscar Deutsch built Odeon theatres, the Odeon Aylesbury opened on 21st June 1937 with Shirley Temple in "Dimples".
The exterior has four vertical fins over the entrance, which have three narrow glazed windows between them. Inside the auditorium there were troughs across the ceiling which contained concealed lighting. Seating was provided for 954 in the stalls and 497 in the circle.
The Odeon was tripled from 26th August 1973 when it re-opened with "The Sword in the Stone" in the former circle screen which seated 497, "Lady Caroline Lamb" and "Thatíll be the Day" in the two mini screens in the former rear stalls which seated 99 and 108. The Odeon was re-furbished in 1984.
In late 1999, with ABC Cinemas about to open a new 6-screen multiplex in the town (now operated by Odeon), the Odeon was closed on 30th October 1999. The building was purchased by the Sainsbury supermarket chain, to enable a new store and car park to be built on the site. Planning permission has been given, but to date the closed-down former Odeon sits awaiting its fate.
The original art deco stage screen is still almost totally intact behind the triple screens and seriously impressive. Cinemas and theatres aren't really my 'thing' (especially with a half broken torch!) but like with the Upper Heyford Hospital, and bits of Hellingly, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to re-shoot one of my very first explores.
Finally...who put that there??
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