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This was a stadium cinema with no overhanging balcony but with a raised section at the rear of the auditorium.
Sometime in the early 1960’s the Ritz had gone over to bingo and the 1972 modernisation was carried out for its return to films.
It closed as a cinema in the Summer of 1970 which then left Horden with only the Empress as a cinema until it in turn also closed. Horden for a short while then had no cinemas until the Ritz returned to films in 1972 – possibly as a result of the larger Picture House’s conversion to bingo.
The Painted Wagon pub occupied the large second foyer area and the mini screens 2 & 3 were in the under hang in the rear stalls and not in the front stalls which, after the conversion, were unused. The screen for the main auditorium remained in its original position within the proscenium.
Cinven, the venture capitalists who backed the reformed ABC Chain, subsequently acquired Odeon following Rank’s disposal of that circuit (in rather the same manner in which Thorn-EMI parted with ABC) and, upon the advice of Industry Experts, opted to retain the ‘Odeon’ brand as it was superior.
Once upon a time that would have been very debatable especially in the days when ABC as a brand was as well known for TV as for cinemas and film production. However, by the time of the Cinven strategy, the ABC name was very much tarnished to say the least………
EMI took over in 1969, long before tripling and even longer before the Cannon ‘back door’ take over of the circuit.
ABC 1 with 670 seats was situated in the former circle area and ABC 2 with 867 occupied the stalls. The later subdivision of the latter ruined the whole of the downstairs seating area.
It was never renamed Essoldo; the name Regal was retained as the former Playhouse just down the road bore the Essoldo name.
After eight years as a Bingo operation, Essoldo decided to return the Regal to film exhibition and , by narrowing the auditorium and by installing luxury seats in a modern configuration, the capacity was reduced to a mere 405. Classic took over a little while after the cinema’s reopening but were allowed by Essoldo to put their sign up in anticipation of the takeover – it would, after all, have been silly to call it the Essoldo for such a short time………
The ABC name was added at a very late stage in its life after a buy out by Cannon’s directors (backed by CinVen) who decided that , after all, the ABC name was superior to that of Cannon who could not wait to consign it to history in 1986.
The last name this cinema was known by was the A B C.
I used to do managerial relief stints here in the 1970’s whilst based initially at A B C Wigan and subsequently A B C Huddersfield. This was still a single auditorium then with stalls and circle and the stage still had occasional use.
Serves Empire right that the distributors do not look kindly upon their act of butchery at Leicester Square – here’s to the Odeon!
Congratulations to all those involved in the reversal of the subdivision and restoration of this cinema. While the big boys are further carving up theirs (Empire Leicester Square etc), James Hannaway and his team of visionaries are doing the exact opposite……..and using house and screen tabs!
The philosophy with the circuits seems to be that no one is interested in fancy decor or curtains – in any case it is unnecessary; well, this could be said about many things in life but the people at Berkhamsted, Evesham and now St Albans seem to be testimony to the importance of the “unnecessary”.
One observation re the auditorium photo; are the house tabs illuminated via footlights or pageant lighting? they do not appear to be lit on this particular shot.
Congratulations once again; I wish that we had somewhere like the aforementioned places here in the North East but apart from the main auditorium at the Tyneside Cinema (and that is a former News Cinema so does not quite count) I am sorry to say that they are all multi screen popcorn sheds!
Perhaps Mr Hannaway could come up to Stockton On Tees and give some valuable advice with the ABC Globe which is slowly but surely being restored; apparently the fly tower is going to remain sealed off and there will be no films – and, I dare say, no curtains either………….
From the British Pathe Library :–
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM_mvgrECzw (The opening of ABC Blackpool at 05:20)
The Beatles Live: ABC Blackpool 1965 :–
Watch out for the all-star line up at the end!
From The British Pathe Library:–
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zqv6GOPdcLk (Europe’s First Triple Cinema Conversion – ABC Edinburgh 1969 )
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKhFXBNPVvg (Rolling Stones at ABC Hull )
From The British Pathe Library: The Beatles Live 1963:–
From The British Pathe Library: Premiere of ‘Hell Is A City’ 1960:–
From The British Pathe Library
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF93jYwNB-4 (The opening of ABC Sheffield 1961)
AND – How anyone in their right mind can assert that today’s multiplexes are better than this I cannot begin to think!
I would be delighted to see the slides of the Haymarket; I believe you also have some film footage of Westgate Road ABC on its last day. I was unable to visit on the last evening as I had already transferred to Darlington and that tin pot shower of charlatans, viz Cannon, played a dirty trick to stop me attending………
I hear that you and Steve have now retired from the business and I trust that you are both enjoying being out of the rat race…..
More about the ABC Ritz here :–
I have done what you have suggested, so ‘fingers crossed’…..
I have to say that I was puzzled by this also but I copied and pasted the e-mail address exactly as it appeared at the end of your message here dated 7th inst……
Did you receive my e-mail and accompanying pictures, by the way?
I sent it to the e-mail address you gave at the end of your message dated 07 July, namely :–
FAO Ian Grundy
The Odeon was boarded up for at least a year following its closure in October 1975 (the last film was ‘Confessions Of A Pop Performer’)as Rank’s application for a Bingo Licence was turned down on at least one occasion.
During its period of being shuttered one or two Independent Operators had a look at it with a view to leasing it – at least in the short term – but nothing materialised; one possible reason was that the twin Astra Cinemas (circle area of the old Gaumont)applied for an allocation of product after the Odeon’s closure. They were successful and were granted a 25% allocation which meant that every fourth new release in the West End would play first run at the Astra. I remember that the ABC lost out on a number of occasions when releases which would normally have played there as a matter of course were thus diverted to the small twin (2 x 200 seats) across the road….a bit infuriating, really as prior to its tripling the ABC still had a capacity of 1773!
I think that the launch of the Odeon as a Bingo Club was either in late 1976 or early 1977.
The lovely Odeon (ex Majestic), Bishop Auckland whilst still a busy single theatre. The first film I ever saw,Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty', was here in about 1959 or 1960.
I have taken the liberty of e-mailing you and have attached 1 or 2 photos of interest.
Apologies re Brett Childes – he died in 2008 and not 2009…..
It is indeed a small world, FanaticalAboutOdeon (I am sorry that I do not know your real name). Some of my best friends were – and are – Managers from both Rank and ABC.
Sadly, one of my very dearest, Brett Childes,also a close friend of Peter Talbot, passed away in 2009. He was a perfect gentleman and was dedicated to the industry.
Re Darlington: I was born in nearby Bishop Auckland where I also attended King James I School. The Manager of that town’s Odeon was for many years, another very decent chap by the name of Walter Aylen whose passing coincided with the closure of Halifax Odeon. I quickly advised Ken Close about Walter and suggested that he get his application in quickly if he wished to remain with Rank. This he duly did but, unfortunately, The Newcastle Pavilion was on the same closure list as Halifax and Jim Stewart from the Pavilion was appointed in Bishop Auckland.
When a crummy lot known as Cannon pulled out of Newcastle Upon Tyne (something ABC would NEVER have done!)I was offered and accepted the ABC Darlington where I stayed for 5 years but sadly, after Newcastle this was a bitter pill to swallow. This must have been how Jim Stewart felt when he went to Bishop Auckland from the Pavilion.
The chap I took over from at Darlington (ironically now re-branded ‘Odeon’) was George Skelton who had managed the ABC Globe Stockton for many years. He was also a good friend over the years and whilst I remembered him at Stockton and Chester I did not get to know him really well until he went to the Haymarket, Newcastle.
I must say that I was fascinated by his stories about life with the stars at ABC’s various important live venues and in particular the Globe Stockton, his most famous anecdote being that The Beatles said they would not appear, as a mark of respect, on the evening of November 22nd 1963 following the assassination of John F Kennedy…….. of course they did go on but George was sweating for a while I gather…..