Disappearing Lewes -
Why doesn’t Lewes have a proper cinema? It’s a
terrible inconvenience to the DFL's*, so used to having the
Dalston Rio on their doorstep. Uckfield and Hailsham do too,
and what’s more, Lewes used to have two.
Yes two. The first was the marvellously Tudor-looking Cinema
de Luxe built in 1918 on School Hill which closed in the 1950’s
and was fondly known as the fleapit. This was razed to the
ground in another Clifford Dann tour de force to build the
uncompromisingly hideous Temple House, now home of the SExpress.
But the cinema which survives in many Lewesian’s memories,
was the Odeon in Cliffe High Street. Built in 1932 on the
Cliffe Foundry site, recently vacated by Culverwells, the
Lewes Odeon was one the earlier and uglier examples of the
Oscar Deutsch cinematic empire.
My personal memories of the Odeon are of running out of Peter
Pan aged three when the ticking crocodile became too much
(the screen was BIG). On another occasion, my sister was run
over outside Lacey’s Department Store on our way to
meet our cool sixties parents who had left us home alone to
go to a matinee of MASH the movie. Despite all this I remember
the Odeon very fondly and looking just as a cinema should
look with red plush seats, loopy curtains and art deco flourishes.
In its latter years it sadly became more and more run down,
competing with the golden age of television and home improvement.