Oxford History: George Street


The Cinema, George Street, Oxford

Cinema in May 2009

The earlier cinema in George Street

In 1912 the Oxford Cinematograph Theatre opened at 32 George Street, three doors to the west of Gloucester Street, with St George-the-Martyr Chapel immediately to the east

It was demolished in 1935 along with the former chapel and replaced by the much larger current cinema.

The present cinema

On 1 June 1934 the following report was published in the Oxford Times:

A new cinema is to be built on the site of the Employment Exchange in George Street by Union Cinemas Ltd. The new cinema will have a frontage of 140 feet to George Street.

(The employment exchange to be demolished was in fact the former St George-the-Martyr Chapel, which following its closure in 1919 had been used by the Ministry of Labour men‘s department).

The photograph below shows the new Ritz Cinema in the 1930s:

The cinema in George Street was listed by the following names (taken from Kelly's Directory up to 1976):

  • 1935–1936: Oxford & Berkshire Cinemas Ltd: Cinema
  • 1938–1945: Union Cinemas Ltd: Cinema
  • 1947–1963: Ritz (Associated British Cinemas Ltd)
  • 1963–1976+: ABC (Associated British Cinemas Ltd)
  • 1986–1990s: Cannon
  • 1995: MGM (briefly) before being taken over by ABC again following a management buy-out
  • 2000–present: Odeon

Photograph of the cinema when it was the Ritz

In April 1963 the auditorium of the Ritz was destroyed by fire, but it was reopened by Associated British Cinemas in October 1963 as the ABC. It was split into three auditoria in 1975.

In 2000 the cinema was taken over by Odeon Theatres, whose lease runs out in September 2024.

In 2023 the city council revealed a £37m proposal to demolish the cinema and replace it with community space on the ground floor and an “aparthotel” on the upper five floors.

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 4 July, 2023

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