Wandering In The Dark – The Odeon, Portsmouth.

Urban Exploration is nothing new, its been around a long time and has developed into a subculture itself over the past decade. For the uninitiated urban exploration (UE or urbex are other names) is the activity of exploring abandoned, disused or off limits places. For me the activity is one of escapism and challenge, the photography aspect just seems to be the excuse that pushes me to climb through razor wire or hide out for 16 hours to avoid arrest. But most of all I enjoy it because it is different, because it provides me with something else to do other than the daily grind. Just like climbing it gets me off my arse, out of the house and doing something with my time that creates stories I can tell to friends and anyone else who cares to listen.

It has been over a year and a half since I last engaged with UE, I took a big break after a trip to Italy and I only started again by stumbling across a local fledging who was just getting into UE and its dark underworlds of fun. After an attempt to access the Zurich Building for the 100th time I turned my eyes on the old Odeon Cinema in the North End area of Portsmouth.


A brief history of the building from cinematreasures.org

“The Portsmouth Odeon opened on 14th December 1936 with Sydney Howard in “Chick”. It was the largest and most expensive Andrew Mather designed Odeon of that year. Total seating was provided for 1,824, with 1,224 in stalls and 600 in balcony. It has an impressive monolithic tower frontage in cream faience with vertical green bands and a roof of red Spanish tiles. The auditorium’s ornate decoration included tall murals on side walls depicting film subjects. In 2007 the Freehold on the building was sold by Odeon Theatres Ltd. and after a few false roumors of closure, the final performances were held on 10th January 2008.”


Initially I thought it wasn’t going to be as visually stunning when compared to many places I have been to. It was very much just a reason to do something to get the life flowing through my veins again. So a couple of us found ourselves one evening darting through the side access of an empty house, jumping the wall in the back garden and starting what has turned out to be a rather nice little mini project.

The main building itself has two points of access. The lower screen you access by climbing up a small wall with the help of a gridded fence and jumping through a window. The lower screen is flooded as are the toilets next to the screen making the water rank with sewage and when you walk on the main stage you can run the risk of dropping into god knows what as its made of wood, and has been submerged in water for years. The below shots were taken whilst standing on the vents as they are metal and solid.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

Exiting swiftly the way you came in, the way into the main section is down the alley to the left. The first two smaller screens are about 10 seconds from the door, the one below is the left hand one with a ton of stuff in the doorway. If, like me, you enjoy climbing over stuff then this is the way to go.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

Getting into the projector room for the lower two screens involves climbing into the access corridor through one of a couple of holes that have been punched into the walls that joins both cinemas. There is no real equipment in these rooms now, as I believe they were stripped when the cinema was closed, but there is plenty of film reel scattered around the floor. The floor itself is slowly going south, so be careful in here.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

The main screen is where all the fun is at. It is a shining example of how a cinema theatre should look: a beautiful curved symmetrical room and amazing stylings. The first visit here I didn’t have time to shoot what I had in mind, so the shots below were from trips number two and three. I used two different trigger systems, a tripod, a 7dayshop pro ball head and two yongnuo flashguns to light the below shots.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

Moving through to the back of the screen there is a small access hole that leads into a largish cavity with what appears to be a cooling system of some type. It is this area that has a small hole high up off the ground that I climbed up to and through. This leads into the main roof cavity and thankfully has an installed wooden walkway that allows you to navigate this area.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

At the far end of the roof cavity is a small hatch and with a couple of swift kicks it came open and led out onto the roof. I have seen many different views of Portsmouth now from up high and this one is just another to add to the collection.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

The projector room for the main auditorium is in a similar sort of state as the one for the two smaller screens. No equipment, warped flooring, but a nice view of the main screen through the projector slots.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

Four weeks after our first visit, this little mini project that has filled my mind somewhat as a much needed distraction is now complete. Whilst I love the adventures these types of places can give me, it is a crying shame that such a wonderful building has been left to rot from the ground up. The cost of restoring the building itself would be in the millions and demolishing it would not be much cheaper.

If you do ever fancy a trip into this echo of an art deco past then do exercise caution. All long term abandoned buildings have their structural faults in the shape of loose walls and dodgy flooring. If you do try to access the roof make sure you are strong enough for the short climb as it hangs about 8 feet over some steel work that will cause you damage if you fall and when you do get in through the access hole keep your weight over the girders until you get onto the walkway as it is a long way down the cinema floor.

urban explore at the odeon cinema in north end, portsmouth.

Showing 21 comments
  • Gobbo
    Reply

    Hi,

    Ken from Ken’s Kebabs brought it. He brought it for £70,000, now wants millions for the land behind sainsbury.

    He should of re-opened it as a independent cinema.

    If I was well enough I would of followed my dream, brought it and opened it again.

  • Adam
    Reply

    Hi there,

    These are fantastic photos, it’s always interesting seeing how abandoned places appear now! I’ve explored the site recently, with the intention to investigate within, though I can’t figure out how to get in. Can you advise?

    Many thanks.

    • Paul Alexander
      Reply

      Hi Adam,

      the only way in we found was to pop into the back area with the trashed Speedy Pizza car in it and head over to the side alley way. There is a door down the end which will probably be frequently opened and resealed. This is the only way into the main building.

      • Grace
        Reply

        Thank you so much! I have lived in North End all my life and have always walked past and got such a weird vibe from this building because nothing had been done with it. I have always wondered what it’s being used for and if the screens are still there and just wow! I want to get into urban exploring myself and this would be a great place to start. Do you have any advice?

        • Paul Alexander
          Reply

          hi Grace, drop me an email and will send some advice over to you. Paul.

          • Louis Moss

            Hey! so glad i found this group, i’ve been looking for abandoned places to explore around Portsmouth and had no idea it was here! There is an abandoned hotel on the isle of white i want to explore but no idea what the deal is with that, Do you know if this cinema is still accessible? thanks!

          • Paul Alexander

            Hi Louis,

            absolutely no idea mate. Its not too hard to get on to the property. A little walk around and a quick view of google maps should be everything you need.

            Paul.

          • Simon

            Hi, me and a friend are desperate to explore this cinema. It holds so many memories for me. Do you gain access from the old car park that is located from the rear?

          • Paul Alexander

            Hi Simon, basically yes. Its not difficult to find the way in…its more a case if its been opened up or not. Access via the lower cinema is not recommended ;0).

  • Ella Brewin
    Reply

    Hey, Im a student filmmaker at the Northen Film School. Im currently trying to obtain permissions to film in an abandoned building for a documentary and this is perfect.
    Im not from the area so can you give me any info on who owns the cinema if you have any. Does it have any security? We’d want to film in there for about 6 hours.

    Thanks

    • Paul Alexander
      Reply

      According to a poster above its owned by the chap who owns Kens Kebabs. To be sure, it might be worth checking the Portsmouth Land Registry. There is no security, but odds on its been resealed. If you do manage to get in you shouldn’t have any problems as long as you are not loud.

  • Sally Moore
    Reply

    Hi Adam,

    Thank you so much for those photos. It was the place where I watched my first film and I ended up working in the Odeon. I was even there for its last ever screening before they closed it.

    Looking at your pictures brought up a lot of emotions for me, even in its decay the main screen is still beautiful. I was hoping you’d make it all the way to the projectionist staff room on the roof – they turned it into a Grandma living room! I can’t imagine much is left of that now though…

  • Chlo
    Reply

    I’ve been feeling the urge to adventure recently and now that i’ve heard about this I just have to get in! Do you know the address for it? Is it still there now?

    • Paul Alexander
      Reply

      Hi Chlo, yes its still there. Its behind the Sainsburys in North End, its not hard to find on google maps.

      • Perry
        Reply

        Can you email me at yoshiidud@yahoo.co.uk
        I’m wanting to get into urban ex, but never had anyone to go with… Not so fun exploring when you’ve got no one watching your back.

        • Paul Alexander
          Reply

          Hi Perry, you should look into some of the urbex forums and ask about. Its been awhile since I did any exploring as my focus has shifted and I tend to only go with people I 100% trust. Plus there is nothing wrong with going solo, less people, less chance of being caught.

  • Taylor
    Reply

    Hi i have been wanting to explore, is the way to get in still open and where is the way in, in detail

    • Paul Alexander
      Reply

      Hi Taylor, no idea if it is still accessible it has been sometime since I visited this place. As for access, it is fairy obvious and if I tolf you it would ruin the fun ;0).

  • Jay
    Reply

    Hi there I am a photographer and I am looking for some abandoned places to take pictures of in Portsmouth does anyone have any adresses that I can have. Thanks

  • hannah
    Reply

    it is such a shame. as amazing and interesting as it is to look at now, i really wish someone would re do it all to look how it did when i used to go. if only i was a multi millionaire!!! would be incredible to see it back to how it was and would be incredible to be able to do that myself! ahh memory lane! not been there for a while! lol

  • Hayley
    Reply

    I’d love to come explore this place, anyone have any ideas if it is still accessible?

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