HAMMERSMITH ODEON (APOLLO)
Eventim Apollo, formerly the Hammersmith Apollo, is one of London’s major live entertainment venues. It is located in Hammersmith, West London and is one of the UK’s largest and best-preserved original theatres.
It opened on the 28th of March, 1932 as the Gaumont Palace cinema, designed in the Art Deco style by renowned theatre architect Robert Cromie, who also designed the Prince of Wales Theatre in Central London.
It was designed on behalf of a joint collaboration between exhibitor Israel Davis and the Gaumont British Theatres chain. It had 3,487 seats and the opening programme was Tom Walls “A Night Like This” and Helen Twelvetrees in “Bad Company”.
It had a large 35 foot deep stage, an excellent fan shaped auditorium (which, despite its enormous 192 feet width allows remarkable intimacy and excellent sightlines from all parts of the house), twenty dressing rooms, a Compton4Manual/15 Ranks theatre organ and a café/restaurant located on the balcony/foyer area.
Eventim Apollo was renamed the Hammersmith Odeon in 1962 and started playing host to many legendary acts of the day, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Marley. It screened its last regular film on 8th August 1984, “Blue Thunder” starring Roy Scheider.
Following a sponsorship deal, it was later refurbished and renamed the Labatt’s Apollo. During his 1992 sell out tour, Michael Ball, the musical theatre star, best known for his roles in Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Hairspray, was the last person to play the venue when it was named “Odeon” and the first person to play after it was renamed “Apollo”. The venue continued to host long running shows and musicals such as Riverdance and Dr Doolittle.
In the early 1990’s it reverted back to the Hammersmith Apollo. In 1990, it was designated a Grade II listed building by English Heritage and was upgraded to Grade II* status in 2005.
2003 saw the venue renamed as the Carling Apollo Hammersmith, after another brewery entered into a sponsorship deal with the then-owners, Clear Channel Entertainment, a US-based company (which then spun off as Live Nation UK). Major alterations enabled the stalls to be removable, allowing for both standing and fully-seated events. Capacity became 5,039 (standing) and 3,632 (sitting) and in recent years, performers have included Oasis, REM, Stereophonics , Kylie, Elton John, Peter Kay and Paul Weller to name but a few.
In 2006, the venue reverted to its former name, the Hammersmith Apollo. The owners were encouraged by Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Cinema Theatre Association to reinstate the original Compton organ console which had been removed from the building and put into storage in the 1990’s. The organ chambers were retained in the building and with its’ console connected up again, the huge Apollo auditorium is now filled with its’ sound after 25 years of silence.
The venue changed hands once again in June 2007 when it was bought by MAMA Group, a UK based entertainment company who own a number of music venues and festivals, artist management companies and other music-related businesses such as the UK’s most widely circulated music magazine, The Fly.
On 14 January 2009, it was announced that MAMA Group had entered into a joint venture with HMV to jointly run 11 live music venues across the UK, including the Hammersmith Apollo, the Kentish Town Forum, the Jazz cafe and Aberdeen’s Moshulu. Hence, the venue is now known as the HMV Hammersmith Apollo.
Now the legendary music venue has changed hands as AEG Live and Eventim have teamed up to recreate the venue’s 1932 iconic Art Deco design. Following mutl-million pound investment and a huge visual transformation the refurbished venue is now called Eventim Apollo. The venue reopens to the public on 7th September 2013 with a sold-out show by US pop princess Selena Gomez.
Phase one of the refurbishment Eventim Apollo was overseen by award-winning architects Foster Wilson. Highlights include fixtures and fittings to original designs, restorations of the ornate plasterwork and historically sensitive decoration to match the original paint scheme. The refursbishment also revives the two marble staircases previously concealed beneath the extended stage, as well as restoration of the original foyer floor mosaic panels, whilst in the circle the original windows are revealed allowing natural light to once again flood the circle bar. New multi-coloured LED lighting on the facade highlights the new venue’s prominence.
Many artists of African descent have played at the venue, including Prince (October 3, 2002), Def Jam Tour: LL Cool J/Public Enemy/Eric B. & Rakim (November 3, 1987), Tina Turner (April 9, 1982), Alexander O’ Neal, Kanye West, Chubby Checker, B. B. King, En Vogue, Fats Domino, Bob Marley, Run DMC, Earth, Wind & Fire, Third World, Al Green, Jodeci, D’Angelo, Hi-Tension, Barry White, Chuck Berry, The Commodores, Brass Construction, Bootsy Collins, Rick James, James Brown, Omar, Lenny Kravitz, Miles Davis, George Benson, Nina Simone, George Clinton & The P-Funk Allstars, Peabo Bryson, The Four Tops, Natalie Cole, Keith Sweat, Joan Armatrading, Bill Withers, Sly & Robbie, Roachford, Miriam Makeba, Morris Day, The Temptations, Atlantic Starr, The Gap Band, Luther Vandross, Billy Ocean, Anita Baker, The SOS Band, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti Labelle, Five Star, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Fatback Band, Cameo, Whodini, Zapp, Johnny Mathis, Cherrelle, Imagination, UB40 and Sade.