Bid to halt demolition of old Odeon cinema

Gerry Boyle's plan to run  the former Odeon as a cabaret venue came to grief after a month. Picture: ian Georgeson
Gerry Boyle's plan to run the former Odeon as a cabaret venue came to grief after a month. Picture: ian Georgeson
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CAMPAIGNERS are fighting to halt the latest plans to demolish part of the old Odeon cinema on Clerk Street.

The building’s owner, Duddingston House Properties (DHP), is set to begin taking apart the former fly tower, once used to hoist scenery, on 
Monday.

The move follows planning permission being granted to develop student flats to the rear of the derelict building.

However, campaigners say that the permission was based on the front of the building being kept for entertainment purposes and, after the failure of the short-lived venue run by Susan Boyle’s brother Gerry, there are now new fears for the future of the whole site.

Sheila Gilmore, whose Edinburgh East constituency includes the much-loved former picture house, said she had called for a halt to the latest development so that issue can be discussed again. “I am furious the council has refused to intervene,” she said.

“This matter hasn’t been investigated fully, that’s why I’ve called for the demolition to be halted for now. Planners only agreed the demolition and student flats to go up if Gerry Boyle’s entertainment venue took off, and that’s clearly not the case here.”

The building was split into two last year when DHP leased part of it to Boyle.

He had promised to deliver a high-class Las Vegas-style cabaret venue in the A-listed building but the “Instant Arena” only opened for a month last year before the doors were closed amid a legal wrangle with contractors. There had been plans for a champagne bar, coffee lounge and two ground-floor cinema screens being reopened, as well as talk of his famous sister making an appearance.

Save the Odeon campaigner Tom Pate said something had clearly gone wrong in the planning process. “I am very nervous about what’s happening and there’s been no detail about what’s being proposed,” he said.

“For ten years we’ve helped to ensure the building was protected from weather and fire and we won’t go away until we’re told the truth.”

The developer, however, insists that all its planning conditions have been met and it is going ahead as planned on Monday.

DHP director Bruce Hare said: “We are also annoyed that Gerry Boyle’s company has not re-opened the front of house as a working entertainment venue. We want to see the building operational.

“But we need to get on with the development.”

The Odeon closed in 2003 with controversy over its future ever since. It had first opened its doors in 1930, then known as the New Victoria, and became the Odeon in 1964. The 1970s saw the cinema begin to lead a double life as a popular music venue with Deep Purple, The Kinks, The Who, Thin Lizzy, and AC/DC among the names to have performed there.