As Odeon Broadway Plaza celebrates 20th anniversary, Westside launches new film column

Westside is home to two of the country’s biggest and best cinemas, and this autumn there are anniversaries galore. GRAHAM YOUNG reports, as we launch the first of his regular film review columns.

Odeon Broadway Plaza and Cineworld Broad Street are both film fans’ fantasias, with 24 luxury screens split evenly between them on sites separated only by the Five Ways roundabout.

What is now the Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza site first opened exactly 20 years ago today, on 24 October 2003. Back then, it was a US-backed AMC Cinema with 12 screens and 2,909 seats.

Odeon took over the site and rebranded it in September 2012 ahead of opening its iSense screen with Skyfall on 26 October 2012. In 2016, the by now Chinese-backed AMC Theatres was the world’s biggest cinema company and sealed a £921 million deal to buy the whole of Odeon – Europe’s largest exhibitor – to turn the Five Ways site full circle.

Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza. Picture by Graham Young.

The Broadway Plaza multiplex was then redeveloped at a cost of £1 million in the first half of 2018, with every seat turned into an individual, electrically-powered recliner, reducing overall capacity to 1,246 across 12 screens.

As well as iSense with Dolby Atmos sound, the premium formats here also include the 235-seat Dolby Cinema Screen 3. This top-quality screen opened in November 2019 and is designed to immerse you in sound and vision with improved brightness, colours and contrast via dual laser projection.

Odeon Luxes seats.

Odeon Luxe has a Costa Coffee cafe, Oscar’s bar and traditional concessions – it also offers unique views across the city from its first floor landing.

Just down the road is Cineworld Broad Street, originally opened by UGC with 2,400 seats in July 2000, taken over and rebranded as Cineworld in November 2005, with the entire interior remodelled by 2017.

Cineworld Broad Street

Today, its retained dozen screens include a £1 million IMAX theatre, the former Screen 6 which reopened with the regional premiere of James Bond thriller Skyfall on 25 October 2012. And then there’s the multi-sensory 4DX in the former standard Screen 3, which opened with Doctor Strange on 25 October 2016.

Today, Cineworld has a Starbucks, a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlour and various other counters as well as an upstairs bar with panoramic views.

Birmingham’s cinema heritage

Thanks to the work of various city-born pioneers, Birmingham has a pioneering place in cinema history.

Alexander Parkes, born in the city in 1813, was a metallurgist who invented plastic, helping to create the origins of celluloid in the 1860s.

On 4 August 1930, Oscar Deutsch opened his first Odeon in Birmingham – and built so many theatres in the 1930s that his company was still the biggest in Europe at the turn of this century, as well as the most famous exponent of art deco architecture. Even current owner AMC has kept the famous Odeon name.

The art deco of many Odeon cinemas, as shown on the cover of Odeon Cinemas: Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation: 1, by Allen Eyles

Another pioneer was city-born Sir Michael Balcon who attended the nearby George Dixon Grammar School on Portland Road. The producer gave Alfred Hitchcock his first directing job, ran the famous Ealing studios, helped to found BAFTA and is the late grandfather of triple Oscar-winning screen star Daniel Day-Lewis.

Balcon also introduced TV’s future Dixon of Dock Green character in The Blue Lamp, a film he produced in 1950.

With all of this history in mind, Westside BID’s own reporter Graham Young has been reviewing films in Birmingham since 1989 for titles including the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post, Sunday Mercury and BBC WM. He is a former UK Regional Film Journalist of the Year and three-times runner-up.

Graham Young, who will now be regularly reviewing films for Westside BID.

Now you can read his reviews via Westside World and get ready to enjoy the thrill of the big screen at the heart of the city which did so much to help to create the modern film and exhibition industry.

Each week we’ll give you a top tip at the end of our reviews to help you to get more out of your cinemagoing experience.

Read Graham Young’s first review here.

ENDS

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