THEY don’t open cinemas like they used to – in fact they probably don’t open many new cinemas these days anyway – and it was a touch of real Hollywood glamour when the Odeon Worcester opened its doors for the first time in January 1950. Because there in person, full length gold lamé gown, five row pearl choker, fur coat and all, was the star of the first film to be shown.

A crowd of more than 5,000 completely blocked Foregate Street, while inside the 1,700 seat auditorium was full to bursting, as Valerie Hobson arrived by chauffeur-driven limousine for the red carpet treatment prior to the screening of her latest movie The Rocking Horse Winner.

Surprisingly Miss Hobson didn’t perform the opening ceremony of the Odeon, which celebrates its 70th birthday this month. That job was collared by the city’s mayor of the day Alderman TS Bennett, who gave an insight into the more austere nature of the times, when he announced the new cinema brought with it “increased responsibilities for the city council”.

Warming to his theme, he added: “Part of these Civic Responsibilities, I know you will agree, is to see that the city can offer the public places where they can relax from their labours and be entertained in comfort.” Which is a line a local politician would be unlikely to utter today.

But then things were very different all those years ago. The Second World War was not long ended, there was still rationing and National Service, while few homes had telephones let alone TVs. The arrival of a new cinema in town in the hey-day of the genre was very big news indeed.

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In fact the building of the Odeon had bookended the war. The original property on the site dated back to 1835 and had been a library and museum before it was converted into the Silver Cinemas, which opened in 1915. In the late 1930s this was demolished to make way for a new build Odeon. However, the war intervened, the part build was used for wartime storage, and work on the cinema didn’t restart until 1948. After that it was two years to opening.

The first manager of the Odeon was a very popular local personality John Bee, an accomplished theatre organist, who had previously managed the Gaumont, which stood virtually opposite across Foregate Street. Mr Bee remained in post until 1962 and retired with a fund of memories, which included soldiers from Norton Barracks marching through Worcester to see Bridge Over the River Kwai and regularly welcoming international cricket stars from touring sides playing Worcestershire at New Road.

Then there were the “things left behind” by customers. Favourites in the back row of the stalls were false teeth, while apparently one cinema-goer must have been so overcome by the film, they made it home without their wooden leg. Talk about floating on air.