Gerry Boyle defends Odeon revamp as venue unveiled

Gerry Boyle said he was 'apprehensive and excited' ahead of the launch party. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Gerry Boyle said he was 'apprehensive and excited' ahead of the launch party. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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HE’S the brother of singing sensation Susan Boyle and the man bidding to return a mothballed city icon to its former glory.

But even though the former Odeon cinema in Clerk Street only reopens tonight, Gerry Boyle has already launched a passionate defence of the Las Vegas-style venue.

The entrepreneur said he was both “apprehensive and excited” ahead of the launch as he urged critics not to harshly judge the “unfinished product”.

Staff have been working round the clock to spruce up the historic A-listed building, which has been rebranded as The Instant Arena, ready for a party from 7pm.

The long-awaited unveiling, which has been delayed by three months due to wrangles over a lease agreement, will be limited to the new foyer bar, the grand hall – where a band will be situated – and an upstairs champagne bar, which has been called Scruples.

However, the eye-catching auditorium remains shut.

As of late yesterday, workers were still tearing up carpets, while hoardings were yet to be removed from the front of the building.

But Mr Boyle insisted £250,000 had been spent sorting out wiring and piping in the building, completing a major repainting job, installing a kitchen and fitting out bars and toilets to dress up the 1930s landmark, which closed ten years ago.

He acknowledged the venue was far from perfect, but said he wanted to “get the place open and get people believing” in it again.

“We’ve a long way to go,” he said. “We said that on day one, but isn’t it wonderful to bring this building back alive and employ 200 people this side of Christmas? It’s a work in progress, but considering what it was like, it’s a transformation.

“We’ve been criticised for being ambitious, but we’ve had a plan, which is a gradual rejuvenation of the building and bringing in entertainment. It’s great news, an early Christmas present. Edinburgh has its building back.”

The venue will be open daily from 8am to midnight, seven days a week, from Monday.

Plans to hold themed 
nights such as country, jazz, rock and Motown throughout the week are in the pipeline for early next year.

Smaller theatres running off the grand hall will be combined into a single performance space and opened in 2014 under Mr Boyle’s vision.

The upstairs art deco auditorium would also be relaunched in the new year as a 600-seat theatre venue.

Save the Odeon campaigner Tom Pate said he believed that the project would prove a success, but echoed Mr Boyle’s stance that it might be a slow burner.

He said: “A soft relaunch is to be welcomed. It gets the front of the building open, people in and out, back as part of the townscape.”

A crowd of at least 200 people is being targeted for tonight’s party, with city guitarist Rab Howat fronting the band.