by Ross Hunter
I have a lot to thank The Odeon for. When I first arrived in Ayr, it provided a place to share experiences with the newfound group of strangers that I’d be living with in the Halls of Residence at UWS. A social experience with no pressure to hold idle conversation, and afterwards an opportunity to find out who was like-minded. Did they like the same films I liked? Who was funny? Who was charismatic? Who shared common interests and points of view?
There is a lot to be said for the cinema as a space to foster connections, and The Odeon in Ayr helped me to move to a new town where I knew no-one and have the confidence to engage with others. It certainly helped that many of the new people I had met shared a passion for film, as this was what we had chosen to study.
Over the years I have seen friends don the black and blue uniform, their name and favourite film emblazoned on their badge, sharing workplace stories of policing amorous teenagers, convincing keen film buffs that there is no post-credit scene in this film and that they should leave, and those wonderful nights where an audience shares a collective conscious, where a film brings a room together, whether that be the Harry Potter finale or Fifty Shades of Grey.
It would be easy to talk about the bricks and mortar, how it was the last Art Deco cinema to be built in Scotland, but for many moviegoers, that was never what was important. It was the memories shared. It has hosted the dreams and imaginations of Ayrshire audiences since 30th July 1938, and for that reason we are sad to see it go.
For me personally, I remember the halls filled with a noisy audience who screamed in joy at the opening of The Terminator, and when they brought 80s and 90s classics back to the big screen, embracing the chance to see a well-loved film that many of us were too young to see the first time around. I remember sinking into my seat as my friends glared at me, having convinced them to spend an evening watching one of the worst films we had all seen.
Most of all, I remember as I got older, taking my step-daughter to see the latest rendition of Star Wars. Having bonded over the original trilogy at home, it was an honour to be able to share that experience. Her laugh when Darth Vader (a very enthusiastic employee) started to force choke me is a core memory that will stay with me forever.
But like the films that the building has housed over the years, all good things must come to an end. The Ayr Odeon, tired from years of serving a faithful Ayrshire audience, saw her audiences dwindle and cracks begin to form as she struggled to keep up with the changing nature of how we engage with film, exacerbated by the global pandemic. As sad as we are to see the historic building close its doors, it is time to look to the future. Gone are the days of large multiplex cinemas dominating town centres. We now have an opportunity to shape our own cinema culture in Ayrshire. An independent, home grown film exhibition scene that caters to the unique region of the world that we are lucky to find ourselves in. A scene that rises to the challenges of the times and provides opportunities to see ourselves, our hopes, our dreams and our realities expressed on our big screens.
I am fortunate enough to be in a position to support this new dawn with the advent of the Iris, a new community cinema in the town centre. However, I will be forever grateful to the lessons I have learned from what came before. So long Odeon, thanks for everything.