A chain of cinemas across Europe, the company was started by Oscar Deutsch, with his first "picture palace" opening in Birmingham in 1930. By 1936 there were over 150 Odeon cinemas in the UK and the firm was starting to expand internationally. The company's name is a clever play on words, alluding both to the ancient Greek theatre (see Webster 1919's definition) as well as allegedly being an acronym for Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation.

In the UK most Odeon cinemas were purpose-built by the company, catering for an audience who relied on this medium as a cheap means of entertainment and news, back in the days when television sets were luxuries only the extremely wealthy could afford. Many of the cinemas were lavishly designed and used architectural styles that were daring and ahead of their time. Some of the finest examples were destroyed by bombing during the Second World War and others still were pulled down in the immediate post-War years, but most of those remaining now have "listed" status, meaning that at least some of these fine buildings are likely to remain within Britain's towns and cities.

O*de"on (?), n. [NL., fr. Gr. , fr. : cf.F. od'eon. See Ode.]

A kind of theater in ancient Greece, smaller than the dramatic theater and roofed over, in which poets and musicians submitted their works to the approval of the public, and contended for prizes; -- hence, in modern usage, the name of a hall for musical or dramatic performances.

 

© Webster 1913.

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