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Listing means cinema is star in its own right.

A Midland cinema which is one of the finest remaining examples of 1930s' art deco design has been given listed building status by the Government.

It is a victory for local residents who feared the Odeon in Sutton Coldfield could close after a Bristoased developer showed interest in the cinema site and the surrounding area off Maney crrctCorner.

The development company is believed to have pulled out two weeks ago after it was revealed some of the houses on the land are protected by a covenant preventing their demolition.

Cinema manager Mr Brian Hall, who has been at the Odeon for 19 years, said he and his staff had tried to remain calm despite the uncertainty about the building's future.

"We tried to keep a cool head but I suppose there was always the possibility the land could have been sold. However, I had lots of letters from people saying they would hate to see it go."

The cinema's ocean liner-style curves and central fin were designed by Mr Cecil Clavering for developers, the Harry Weedon Partnership, in 1936. Many of the cinema's original features remain, such as the cream and black faience tiles, metal windows, rubb er flooring dating from the 1930s, and an almost unaltered projection room

The first film to be shown was First A Girl starring Jessie Matthews, the story of a woman pretending to be a man who performed a drag act.

In 1972 the Odeon's single screen, complete with circle and stalls, was converted into three - a pioneering move for the time. A fourth screen was added eight years ago.

The cinema was nominated for listed status by Mr Richard Gray, chairman of the Cinema and Theatre Association which campaigns for venues to be given preservation orders.

Mr Gray, who is carrying out a survey of old cinemas for English Heritage, said: "It is probably the only working cinema in the West Midlands to be listed.

"It is on a very striking corner site and one of the first buildings to utilise a corner shape."

He said the 1913 Picture House in Stafford, now a pub, and the Odeon in Kingstanding, Birmingham, now a bingo hall, were the only other two cinema buildings in the region to have been granted listed status - after they had ceased showing films.

The status awarded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, means any changes to the cinema will have to be agreed by Birmingham City Council.

Coun Renee Spector (Lab Erdington), chairman of Birmingham's planning committee, said: "I am pleased the Odeon in Sutton has achieved Statutory Grade II listing. I know how long and hard the local residents and local historians have campaigned for this t o happen."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 19, 1998
Words:453
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