The Odeon cinema that stood for 30 + years at the edge of Canada is remembered today as a highlight of a by-gone era in Windsor’s social and entertainment history. In the 1960’s, Windsor had an establishment of successful cinema’s operating including several theatres and a few popular drive-ins. Each of these venues featured something that set itself apart from the others. Attached to the already swingin’ Holiday Inn on Riverside Drive, the Odeon cinema was no exception.
The Windsor Star stated in 1967 that the new Odeon was “equipped with the latest in sound, screen viewing and comfort facilities”. It was a technical advancement from what was currently available maybe in say like the Park, or even the Palace, and probably the drive-ins. The Odeon lobby offered ‘unobstructed’ panoramic views of the Detroit skyline, “also available to those patronizing the main dining room, restaurant and cocktail lounge of the Holiday Inn and many of its 265 rooms.” Indeed, the new Odeon had everything including, “approximately 640 yards of rich Axminster broadloom carpeting [providing] a luxurious atmosphere”. The theatre then set itself apart by hosting an invitational preview one day ahead of its public grand opening.
Bob Jackson, a local resident of Windsor and avid film-buff was invited to the invitational preview held Tuesday Oct 3 1967. Jackson remembers, “I was 19 years old and I got the invitation in the mail. I dressed up in my three-piece suit. Everyone was dressed to the nines. We all waited as a group, and then went up the stairs to the promenade. It was a gorgeous theatre, it really was”.
Remember, this is 1960’s, the economy is booming and people were generally more social than today; especially where watching movies are concerned, there was still only one way to see a movie in 1967. It was a time in our culture where people were going out. Opening a new luxury theatre to service that industry seems cause enough to host a gala event like the invitational preview. For Windsor, it was just a small glimpse of what was coming a year later.
Imagine, having a gala like this, and the following year the world premiere of The Devil’s Brigade is held at the Vanity. What a time to be living in Windsor! Bob Jackson remembers the event, “they had searchlights, and the stars of the movie were there. The red carpet. I was across the street, because you couldn’t get near it, it was blocked off, but everyone was screaming. I saw the limos pull up. It was pretty cool, man”.
“I saw a lot of movies at the Odeon, but I remember Wait Until Dark the most. If you ever get the chance to see that, it’s worth it”
“The theatre business was big, big, big. I used to go to the movies constantly. I am still a movie buff, but I just don’t go. It’s too costly, the food-court is ridiculous! So, I stay at home.” Jackson laments over a social culture in decline and blames cell phones and rising costs for everyone staying home. “Windsor was great back then, it’s not the same, we had the Elmwood where we saw big name stars play, I saw Sammy Davis Jr. and Tom Jones.”
As Windsor evolves into a new millennium, we see less citizens are going out, and increases in Netflix memberships as they slowly hook everyone in. Why do we not go out anymore? Because we can watch Wait until Dark on our phone, computer, tablet, or i-device. What about the social aspect of making connections or supporting local business? We can follow you on this and like you on that.
As we digitize our experiences and business’ it makes sense that the need for a physical setting will diminish. Does that have implications we may want to consider? Possibly, if you’d like to attend a gala event like this again one day, better have some place to host it.
The Odeon never would see the millennium as it burned up in flames that caught the attention of all Windsorites in April 1999. The last thing to go before the riverfront was made over to the glorious public space it has become today, now featuring a truly ‘unobstructed’ view of the Detroit skyline.
Twenty years later, the Odeon cinema is still remembered for its impact on those of us that remember living life socially and physically as a part of our history. (lucky enough to have been born before the millennials.) Even though none of us are probably willing to trade what we have now for it back, the Odeon was a great place to go when we did go to those places.