Odeon’s future in balance as crunch talks looming

Building work at Buccleuch Street at the rear of the Odeon building. Picture: Jane Barlow
Building work at Buccleuch Street at the rear of the Odeon building. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE owners of the former Odeon Cinema on Clerk Street say they are looking at new options for the building amid fresh fears for its future.

The iconic cinema has been gathering dust since 2003 after a string of planning wrangles failed to bring the A-listed building back to life.

Among the would-be developers was Gerry Boyle – brother of Blackburn singing sensation Susan Boyle – who leased part of the property in 2013 to set up a Las Vegas-style cabaret theatre, along with a champagne bar and two cinema screens.

But the entertainment complex closed after just a few weeks amid a legal battle between Mr Boyle and contractors.

His firm An Instant World Group Limited has now ceased trading and has been given notice to terminate the lease by the end of the year, according to owners Clerk Street Auditorium Ltd (CSAL).

Bruce Hare, CSAL’s director, said today they were still looking at alternatives.

He said: “We are continuing to look at a number of new options for the re-use of the building following Gerry Boyle’s company AIWGL’s demise.

“We have always been willing to talk to any credible party who has a serious proposal to make that involves the restoration of the Grade A listed building.”

Newington and Southside councillor Cameron Rose said council officials would visit the site to determine the state of the building amid mounting concerns over its deteriorating condition.

Cllr Rose, who sits on the city’s planning committee, said: “The biggest concern locally is that there will be deterioration of the building, particularly as there is no sign of any progress.

“I think the biggest shame is to have a building in the heart of the community that is deteriorating.”

Save the Odeon campaigner Tom Pate said there was still community interest in saving the building, particularly the main frontage.

But he said it was difficult until the long-term plans of the developers became clear. Many locals are hoping for the site to be returned to its former use as a cinema, as there are no others nearby.

“There is some suggestion it should be taken over for community use,” said Mr Pate.

“I’m not sure how much thought has gone into that but maybe there could be a combination of them both.”

A fly tower, once used to hoist scenery, is currently being demolished to make way for student flats at the back of the building.

The cinema opened in the 1930s and it doubled as a music venue from the 1970s, hosting performances from The Kinks and AC/DC.

The building’s future is to be discussed at an informal meeting next month which will be open to interested parties, including campaigners and councillors who are liaising with the developers.

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com