The rebirth of Odeon

The author, 19 July 2020

In 1928 Oscar Deutsch the British businessman opened his first cinema under the name Picture House. Two years later when he was planning to open his second Picture House, he couldn’t use the same name and was obligated to find a new name for his future cinema chain. In 1930 the chain of the most popular and middle class cinema operated under the name Odeon. The name Odeon has been already adopted by cinemas in France and Italy in the 1920s, but Oscar Deutsch and his advertising team claimed that Odeon, stood for Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation.

Odeum or Odeon is a Greek word means a hall, theater, or other structure for musical or dramatic performances. The word in Greek is ōideîon, ōid(é̄) which means song, and eion suffix denoting place.

Deutsch was influenced by the newly introduced Art Deco architecture, and he wanted to give the futuristic look to his cinemas as a way into modernizing Britain. Later the leading Odeon Cinemas have become remarkable for their modernist architecture styles that influenced all other cinemas. By the time of his death, hundreds of cinemas around the world were operating under the name Odeon.

In the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s and before the television becomes popular in Egypt, the only mean of entertainment was the cinema. People rushed to all kinds of cinemas of different levels and classes. My dad who was born in the late 50s, is telling me how cinema was the major activity in his daily life in Alexandria. It was actually a very successful business model. Many wealthy business men started to franchise famous cinema chains. Among lots of names, Odeon in Camp Caesar is owned by Arslanidis Brothers.

Mr. Mike Arslanidis adds, My father and uncles bought the land situated corner rue Prince Ibrahim and rue Eleusis (Omar Lotfy street and Abd El-Moneim Sanad) late 1940s. They built the cinema and the adjacent building. The inauguration was at 1953. The first projection was DUAL ALIBI. We still own the cinema.

The building of Odeon cinema in Alexandria is located in front of Camp Caesar tram station on both Omar Lotfy street and the perpendicular Abd El-Moneim Sanad. By consulting the maps of Alexandria, surveyed in 1938 it appears that the building was already existing. But the street names were different, Omar Lotfy was El Amir Ibrahim while Abd El-Moneim Sanad was under the name Schedia. I am not quite sure of when it was built neither I could find much information about the Greek owner, so perhaps someone can help complete the research.

Original correction and modification by Mr. Mike Arslanidis:

Dear Mr. Gohar I am Michel Arslanidis. Our family owns Cinema Odéon at Camp Cesar tram Station. Your information about our cinema are a bit wrong. My father and uncles bought the land ( situated corner rue Prince Ibrahim and rue Eleusis) late 1940 s. They built the cinema and the adjacent building. The inauguration was at 1953. The first projection was DUAL ALIBI. We still own the cinema. Best regards


References:

Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Alex cinema, cinemas.Retrieved in 18 July 2020 from https://www.bibalex.org/alexcinema/industry/Cinemas.html

Jason Sayer. The Guardian, Closing credits: the battle to save 1930s Odeon cinemas – photo essay (11 March 2019) Retrieved in 18 July 2020 from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/mar/11/closing-credits-the-battle-to-save-1930s-odeon-cinemas-photo-essay

Wordreference. Etymology, odeum. Retrieved in 18 July 2020 from https://www.wordreference.com/definition/odeum

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