THE FIRST Odeon to open in Bournemouth was 80 years ago this month but it wasn't granted planning permission straight away and had to prove its worth.

The year before the venue opened there were already 16 cinemas operating in Bournemouth, including the Regent on Westover Road, the Electric on Commercial Road, the Savoy at Boscombe, the Moderne at Winton, the Plaza on Wimborne Road and the News Theatre on Albert Road in the centre of the town.

Bournemouth Council twice rejected the Odeon Theatre Ltd plans for a cinema on Christchurch Road at the Lansdowne on the grounds there were enough cinemas in the area showing quality films. The proposed site comprised of large private houses converted into private hotels and boarding houses and was scheduled for commercial and industrial development.

In 1936 Odeon Theatre Ltd placed an open letter with a large sketch and particulars of the proposed theatre in the Echo appealing to Bournemouth ratepayers to support the scheme.

It explained it would employ a large number of local labour during the building of the cinema and 50 permanent staff on completion. It would be a modern construction with seating for 1,978 and the latest air conditioning.

"The theatre will be second to none, and will be worthy of the important town of Bournemouth. We are in a position to guarantee continuous showing of films of first-class quality and of the earliest possible release," said a firm spokesman.

Odeon Theatre Ltd was set up by Oscar Deutsch who originally worked for a leading renting film firm in the Midlands before moving to the distribution and exhibition side in cinema theatres. He opened his first cinema in 1928 and began using the Odeon name two years later with the phrase, 'Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation'.

It wasn't until 1935 that an Odeon circuit was planned and many more Odeon cinemas built. By 1937 there were over 200 cinemas with nearly every town and city in England having one.

When talking pictures first swept the entertainment world, theatres had to be equipped with new talking apparatus which was only available from abroad. Oscar approached the British firm Thomson-Houston Co Ltd to produce similar sound equipment which became well known throughout the world.

Throughout the building of the Odeon circuit Oscar's wife was responsible for the interior decoration and lighting schemes in the cinemas, and every one was different.

Oscar had great faith in the future of the cinema and British pictures. He arranged with United Artists to have premiere runs of films that once seen in London, at the former Alhambra which Oscar obtained, could be shown in other Odeon cinemas within a few days, instead of the previous long waiting times that other cinemas had to endure.

In August 1936 the plan for a cinema, including 45 flats and 18 shops, by Sam Goodman of Sandbanks and David Kerman of London, was granted permission. It was leased to the Odeon Theatre Ltd for 99 years with the agreement that every first run of a film they showed other cinemas in the town could show the same film concurrently.

They said, "There were enough films to go round and enough people in Bournemouth attracted by good films and who would be willing to go to two houses showing the same film."

A year later the Odeon was opened by the Earl of Malmesbury with music from the Royal Marines band.

"With its modern lines in construction and exterior decoration the new Odeon Theatre has completely transformed that part of Bournemouth, in addition to providing visitors and residents with another centre of entertainment where the best and latest films will be shown. The Neon illuminated fin or tower rising to a height of 78ft above the facade will quickly become a landmark,"reported the Echo.

Jean Arthur's latest production 'History is Made at Night" with co-star Charles Boyer was the film shown and the proceeds went to the Royal Victoria and West Hants Hospital in Bournemouth.

During the Second World War, many events were arranged to reflect the war effort, and during the 1943 air raid some shrapnel speared through the back of the small stage area and passed through the screen into the stalls.

Many film stars made guest appearances at the cinema, including the actress Kay Kendall.

In the late 1950s the Todd AO film "South Pacific", which used a semi-circular screen to provide picture depth, was shown at the Odeon. In 1968 the Todd AO musical fantasy Doctor Dolittle with Rex Harrison was shown after the cinema was modernised.

Declining audience numbers brought the Odeon to a close in January 1974. The centre became a Top Rank Club for bingo which was then taken over by Gala Club in 2004 and the building remains a bingo hall today.