Accessible Odeon

You will all be familiar with the Odeon chain of cinemas. You probably know that they have a web site. If you happen to be running the right version of the right browser on the right operating system you may even be able to visit their web site and get useful information out of it.

The problem is that their web site was designed by a bunch of complete incompetents. In order to make the site look as pretty as possible they used Javascript code that only works in Internet Explorer. If you’re trying to access their site using any other browser you’re out of luck. All you’ll see is the word “Odeon” in an artistically blurred image. So for a number of users, the site was completely useless.

This fact came to the notice of Matthew Somerville who is a web designer specialising in accessible web sites. He wrote a version of the Odeon site which grabbed information from the real Odeon site and presented it in an easy to read manner that was equally accessible to all browsers.

For some time, all was well with the world. I was getting information about my local Odeon from Matthew’s site. Matthew’s site drew quite a lot of favourable press attention. Even the Odeon people said nice things about it in an article in the Independent.

But now all that has changed. The Odeon’s lawyers have decided that they aren’t happy with Matthew’s site. They have forced him to remove it. They claim that too many people were getting confused between his site and theirs. This is despite Matthew’s site having “this site is not the official Odeon web site” clearly displayed on every page. The full story is at the old Accessible Odeon address.

So I’m now boycotting Odeon. Until they allow Matthew to put his site back online. Or, even better, they change their site to be accessible by more than one browser.

On Friday I found that Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn’t on at my local Odeon. So I went to the Clapham Picture House instead. It’s just as close, but it is smaller, friendlier and just generally nicer. They’ll be getting a lot more of my custom in the future.


  1. I just don’t understand crap cinema websites. Looking up what films are on (and then being able to book the tickets for the popular films) is a make or break for me.I haven’t used the local odeon in years. Since I’m never able to find out what’s on (even when I use IE – it’s still a bunch of arse) it might as well not exist.

  2. I have been saying it. I have been saying it for four goddamn years!!This has to be the worst website in the world. The worst thing is that it is not the designers (actually they must be laughing about it) but the owners that are a bunch of complete morons as they must have spent huge amount of money for it. What dick heads!Their site sucks and they’ve got the nerve to turn round and say that the accessible site is the site with problems. Give me a break!”People in glass houses should not throw stones”

  3. Odeon cinemas UK are actively shutting down the webpages ofdisabled people in the UK. Any pages that mention or linkto the Odeon website are being targetted.One disabled boy (Matthew Somerville) developed a special filmwebsite for the disabled. It linked to Odeon UK as a courtesybut they demanded it be shut down and taken from the web dueto illegal copyrights.BASTARDS! And they are only targetting the disabled, notnormal people who can fight for themselves. That is whywe are sending this message…It’s time to start an internet campaign, we must correct thisinjustice! We demand the following…b) Luke Veteres resignationb) Odeon to publically apologise to the disabled boyMattew Somerville for their insulting behaviour.c) Odeon to immediately fix their website so it workswith all browsers such as Mozilla (and all Gecko based),Netscape 3/4, Safari, Lynx, HotJava, WebTV, Wap and Mosaic.What should you do?a) Mail Luke Vetere at [removed] and tell him he’s afucking bastard. A template letter might beDear Luke Vetere,You are a fucking bastard. You have no right to shut downthe homepage of the disabled boy Matthew Somerville. Idemand you re upload his site immediately. Until you doI will not visit Odeon cinemas UKb) Send this mail to everybody you know (several times so theyget the message) and ask them to do the sameTogether we can beat the bastards!

  4. I suspect that the preceding comment is a joke, but just in case it isn’t I should probably clear up a couple of points.Matthew Somerville is not a diasbled boy. He is (as far as I know – I don’t know him personally) an able-bodied adult web designer who happens to have an interest in producing web sites that aren’t limited to being seen in one browser.The Odeon web site isn’t just inaccessible to disabled people. It is inaccessible to anyone who isn’t using a relatively modern version of Internet Explorer.The Accessible Odeon wasn’t designed for disabled people. It was designed for anyone who doesn’t use Internet Explorer.Odeon are not targeting web sites aimed at disabled people. They asked Matthew to remove the parts of his site which some of their customers were confusing with the real Odeon web site.And finally, sending offensive emails like the one suggested to Luke Vetere will only have a negative effect on any campaign to get Odeon to improve their web site.

  5. I’ve knocked up an open-source interface to the Odeon website, usable in any browser.It’s written in Perl and can be installed in any webspace with LWP installed. I encourage people to take a copy, install it on their own sites, and improve/develop it as they see fit.The code is available from

  6. The CGI proposed by Bwch’r Bant would probably be even more usable if turned into a HTTP::Proxy filter. ;-) This would allow the user to browse the official Odeon website and have the non-usable pages modified on-the-fly. (The module’s available on CPAN.)

  7. “I suspect that the preceding comment is a joke” – I hope it is. :-/”The Accessible Odeon wasn’t designed for disabled people. It was designed for anyone who doesn’t use Internet Explorer.” – *And* those with IE, have you tried using the fiddly menus/scroll bars?

  8. Well, the Odeon website works fine for me. Have they copied the disabled boys work (surely that would also be against the internet law! You cannot have it both ways), or have they finally got around to updating their site? Here in the US, there would be many disabled and Jewish charities who would help fight a case like this. The local networks would run and run with a story like this – with some sad pictures of the disabled boy, next to his computer with a blank screen.

  9. (This is how the Craig Shergold story got out of hand!)Lance,Firstly, please realise the there is no disabled boy. Matthew Somerville is a perfectly healthy adult web designer.Secondly, if the Odeon web site at works for you then you must be using a fairly recent version of Internet Explorer (or a very old version of Netscape). In just about any other browser (for example Mozilla, Opera or Safari) it just shows a blurred image of the word “Odeon”.Here’s a summary of the story for the hard of understanding:* Large company creates a web site that only works in a small number of (admittedly popular) web browsers. This site uses non-standard Javascript to create flashy animated effects. One side-effect of this is that the site breaks many of the UK’s guidelines for disabled access to web sites.* A talented (able-bodied and adult!) web designer creates a new version of the site which scrapes the data from the real site and presents it in a manner which is viewable on all browsers and which also conforms to the accessibility guidelines.* Large company welcomes this innovation and promises a fixed site soon.* A year later, the large company changes its mind and asks the web designer to take his version of their site down.* Large company doesn’t answer any emails asking when the site will be fixed. Site still broken.If you’re going to discuss this story, then please stick to the facts. I’ve left some of the over the top reactions to the story on this page for comedy value, but I really wonder if that’s wise given that some people seem determined to perpetuate that version.

  10. Ah yep, I am using Internet Explorer.You make some good points, but now I don’t quite understand why this Matthew Somerville has to pretend to be disabled, that’s pretty low in my book.But, if the outcome is better designed websites, then I guess it’s for the better.

  11. Lance,Matthew has never claimed to be disabled. And I have never said that he claims to be disabled. Only people who have misunderstood the story have said that Matthew is disabled.

  12. Quote:sending offensive emails like the one suggested to Luke Vetere *will only have a negative effect* on anycampaign to get Odeon to improve their web site.Eh? Why would this be so? I personally don’t know, one way of the other, or is this just your *personal opinion*?

  13. Seems pretty obvious to me that sending offensive emails to someone isn’t going to be the best way to get them to listen to your case.Maybe you have evidence to the contrary.

  14. I was amazed by the Odion’s web site design when I first saw it. Complete incompetents – it’s even too nice characteristics for them… I wonder if they held any surveys to find out the visitors’ reaction.Jane, web designer

  15. I just don’t see why Odeon haven’t gotten their finger out of their arse and done something about their site. I’ve emailed them saying that not doing anything about it is a stupid idea as more and more people are using Firefox, as IE is so shitty and insecure.You would think that the fact that Matthew Somerville made an accessible Odeon website in his own time means that, if asked to, he may be happy to ‘fix’ (more like completley re-make) the Odeon website for free or for a small fee (I am in no way saying that he WOULD do this for free, but I would if I had the skills to do so). Did they even think of asking him? I expect not.It keeps pissing me off though. I hardly ever go to the cinema, once or twice a year maybe. And every time I go to check on cinema times at my ONLY local cinema (that’s right, Odeon) I CAN’T! WTF am I supposed to do Odeon? Reinstall an insecure useless web browser, giving people easy access to my PC if they so desire it? What about when I install a Linux distro? I haven’t easily got the ability to install IE then.*quote* On Friday I found that Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn’t on at my local Odeon. So I went to the Clapham Picture House instead. It’s just as close, but it is smaller, friendlier and just generally nicer. They’ll be getting a lot more of my custom in the future. *endquote*Fancy a large chain of cinemas not playing a HUGELY popular film at ALL of their outlets. I ended up having to go all the way to IPSWICH just to see what I wanted to at cineworld (yes, my one trip to the cinema that year wasn’t to an Odeon. At least the cineworld website wasn’t made by idiots)Frankly I think they have made a deal with the devil (micro$oft) and that’s why the lame arses haven’t done anything.LOL, I can’t read their terms & conditions either.

  16. Hi,Due to their recent merger with UCI I’ve become an Odeon employee, and I was totally unaware about all this hoo-hah before then. I don’t want to get massively dragged into it but I will say two things:1) a LOT of projects such as updating the website were put on hold when the merger happened, as it was obvious that there would have to be a major update after the merger anyway. That could be why it has dragged on.2) The odeon website now has a ‘text-only’ option to show film times and booking information. I use Mozilla personally, and I can access the film information from their text-only page, although it is a little like looking through a time-space nexus to the 1996 internet.In short you should be able to get the information you need, and I expect that when the merger has finalised and settled down there will be a major website update.Hope that helps,:-)

  17. Dave,Thanks for commenting. I should point out that the UCI merger took place in 2004 and the problem with the Odeon web site was reported long before that (there’s a bug report from May 2001). A fix was developed and offered to Odeon at about the same time and they did nothing about it. The merger has nothing to do with this.The text-only version was only implemented after they killed off Matthew’s Accessible Odeon site. And as you say, it looks horrible. As I understand it, this page was added so they they could comply with disability legistlation.So, yes, I can get the information I need. And the information that I need is the list of films showing at the Clapham Picture House. I haven’t been to an Odeon since I wrote this entry. I know a number of other people who have done the same.

  18. Both UCI and Odeon were purchased by the same venture capitalists in 2004 but they remained two seperate companies. The merger only formally began in Sept/Oct 2005, with UCI sites being rebranded as Odeon through December 2005 and into early 2006. The merger is still very much a work in progress and many projects to bring Odeon and UCI infrastructure together (such as any website changes that may or may not happen, for instance) are ongoing. Why nothing was done about the website from 2001-2004 I’ve no idea.Anyway, I’m really not trying to be the Odeon PR guy and I think that’s how I’m coming across so I’m gonna shut my trap now.:-)

  19. I work for Odeon, too. That website’s a disaster zone and always has been. It’s a total embarrassment. Whenever a customer–sorry–“guest” complains about it, I just tell them to use the BBC website or something instead. :sigh:

  20. I have tried twice now to contact Odeon about the continuance of the Directors Chair seasons run by UCI. On neither occassion have i had a reply. Can anyone supply me with an address so that i can write to them?

  21. Hi PamAs far as i am aware no directors chair performances will occur until all of the merging of core company products/offers etc has occured.Cya!

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