The Greenwich Odeon


Up until recently, for a long time, the only cinema in Greenwich was the oddly cylindrical Odeon on the Peninsula.

With the sad demise ages ago of the cinema at the Blackheath Standard (now a Somerfields, for chrissake!) and the equally ancient death of the Plaza on Woolwich Road (mainly flats – even the old Chinese restaurant is now a bookie’s and rumoured to become a LAP DANCING CLUB – come back Gala Bingo, all is forgiven…) the Filmworks with its extraordinary architecture and wind-tunnel-esque centre core was left to reign supreme.

But like any big fish in a small pond, it got lazy. Firstly, the inability to book seats (most tickets are un-numbered) forces you to queue up and watch all the crummy adverts (yes, yes, I can see the commercial point of it, but…) But the queuing system is so rubbish that there’s more order in a rugby scrum and the hapless, usually spotty teenage ushers are ill-equipped to deal with the accompanying frayed tempers.

The queue is also next to the unfeasibly seedy bar area (how can an open-plan bar manage this, I wonder?) and, being the only place where smoking is allowed and therefore more like an opium den than a pub, queuing for the movie makes you feel like a beagle in a laboratory.

Inside, it’s ok – as long as you check out the screen you’re going to be in – some of the 14 screens are so titchy you might as well get your movie out on DVD and watch it at home – luckily there’s a facility on the website to make sure which screen you’ll be in. Oh – and forget the “gallery” where you pay squillions extra to book a seat and get a ‘free’ drink. It’s just the back couple of rows with slightly wider seats and in no way does it separate you off from the hoardes of slack-jawed teenagers in front talking throughout the movie.
If you really want to sit at the back, get there early and sit one row in front of the “gallery” with your own pop… it’s much the same effect.

The Odeon does have its good points. Firstly, it has ‘director’s cut’ screenings where they show non action/rom-com/superhero stuff at times when they can’t get their normal crowd – something to be applauded.

Secondly, it hosts the Greenwich Film Festival – though the blink-and-you’d-miss it advertising doesn’t make as much of it as it might.

Thirdly, the armrests move, so you can cuddle up to your date (aaaahhh…) And, of course, it shows the kind of action hero/rom-com fare that make Saturday nights a brighter place. The big screens – of which they have several – are enormous – a true cinematic experience. Oh, and there are movie quotes in the loos – cleverly chosen so that you come out all smug thinking they’ve quoted them wrong, and then when you check, you have to admit, shamefaced, that they got it right after all.

I wondered what would happen to the Odeon when the Picturehouse opened last year to great general excitement. I feared that there would be some horrible standoff and a bloodbath in which we’d lose both cinemas. As it turns out, it would seem that they do in fact serve different markets – the Odeon seems to cater for the teenage crowds who like hanging around empty shopping centres after closing time; the Picturehouse is after the slightly more cerebral crowd who occasionally like a film with subtitles.

I’m nailing my colours to the mast. I’m a Picturehouse fan myself – though I do occasionally visit the Odeon if I missed something at the Picturehouse – or if it’s something that warrants a MASSIVE screen. But though its geographically closer to me, the Odeon just doesn’t look after me the way the Picturehouse does. When the screen was fuzzy in the Picturehouse I nipped out to mention it and it was sorted instantly. When the same thing happened at the Odeon, I just got looked at in a “what do you want me to do about it” fashion.

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