Showing 1 - 25 of 91 comments
I frequently carried out relief duties at this most impressive theatre and, on a couple of occasions, took over for Jim Thompson’s fortnight’s holiday.
Whilst I always got on well with the opposition in any town where I worked, Halifax was really brilliant with everyone at the Odeon and Astra being very friendly, particularly at the former.
I drew the short straw to be the Relief on the very day that the contractors moved in to start the tripling process and I tried to sneak in on that morning to avoid being waylaid by anyone. However, as my feet touched the first of the circle stairs to go up to the office I was collared by the Head Cleaner who had a list of problems concerning the invaders of the building…….
I have to say that no time was wasted by the contractors, as by the end of my second day (the cinema was open evenings only in the circle), all the stalls seats had been removed plus all the HF Pride auditorium chandeliers and spray fittings and one of the statuettes in the splay alcoves had been knocked over onto the Front Stalls (now bare) floorboards and broken – the vandals!
Mecca are one of the few remaining arms of the Leisure Division of the mighty Rank Organisation who, upon acquiring Mecca Bingo, dropped ‘Top Rank’ in favour of ‘Mecca’ ; a very odd decision in my opinion but the powers that be considered the ‘Mecca’ brand to be more readily identifiable with the ‘Nation’s Pastime’ (not one of mine, I hasten to add).
I am sure that if the box is still accessible and safe to enter that they would allow someone to take photos although Ken Roe will be in a better position to say for certain.
The same goes for you in the health, happiness and wisdom departments!
It was ‘Confessions Of A Pop Performer’ as I was Relief Manager at the ABC Halifax that week and , mindful that it was the Odeon’s last ever programme, I recall typing it on ‘ABC Opposition Report Form No. 6 ’ (they were a bureaucratic lot). When I returned to base theatre, ABC Wigan, it was also playing there as, having no Odeon in the town, we played both releases.
The ‘Confessions’ films were ‘much of a muchness’, Danny, so it is not too surprising that you have mixed them up.The first one, ‘Window Cleaner’ I remember playing at ABC Wigan the previous year (the Court which played Rank releases having recently closed) and it was the only time I saw the 2280 seats all occupied!
‘Pop Performer’ did fairly well and the line that got the most sustained laughter, I recall, was Rita Webb asking Robin Askwith (referring to her daughter) if he had seen “her Fanny” and his reply about seeing ‘The Ghost Of Frankenstein’ being bad enough…………
When two further sequels appeared, namely ‘Driving Instructor’ and ‘Holiday Camp’ I was by then in locations where there was an Odeon but I think that the returns were only fair. However, being cheaply made, I am sure that the producers (and Columbia as distributor) made a decent net profit on the four ventures.
I have uploaded a photo of the Kings taken in the late 1950’s whilst still open as a cinema/restaurant – as can be seen, the town was very busy in those days……
I have uploaded a photo of the ‘double front’ of the Essoldo/Hippodrome. The main sign was (as seen) actually on the side elevation which could be seen from Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland’s main thoroughfare. The original name ‘Hippodrome’ remains in terracotta below the large arched window on the Front Of House. The exterior is looking somewhat dejected on this photograph and was spruced up a short while after it was taken.
The Essoldo Company was rather prone to leaving former names on their cinemas and other examples in the North East were at Stockton (Hippodrome/Essoldo)and Gateshead (Empire/Essoldo).
I quite agree that the circuits should ‘take a leaf out of the book’ of venues such as those mentioned but the USA influenced consortia who run the likes of Odeon would, no doubt, consider themselves to be above doing this and will therefore continue to disregard good taste………..
Why does the ABC Blackpool revolve have the name ‘Palladium’ on it?
I agree one hundred percent with the last two comments and I wish that the greedy, shallow, USA ‘fast buck merchants’ had stayed at their side of that now much too small pond.
They came over here smelling blood at the time when UK exhibitors were recovering following the nadir of UK cinema admissions in 1984.
Of course, these charlatans smelt even more blood when one of the duopoly (ABC) had been acquired by a debt laden and rather less than prestigious outfit known as Cannon who, accordingly, would not be in a position to offer much, if any, resistance to the ‘invasion’ and thus it has been all downhill from there…….
I would not go to any of today’s cinemas if the circuits running them were to offer to pay ME to watch the show!
I would, however, gladly pay to visit places like the Rex Berkhamsted, Regal Evesham, Odyssey St Albans and Plaza Stockport – if any such venues were nearby. Sadly, however, in this neck of the woods there are only soulless ‘popcorn sheds’ which they can keep!
2 days in succession on here which may be regarded as sad by some…..
I shall give you my e-mail address as I do not imagine the readers on here will be interested in my personal life :–
I also have an A***book page(!):–
I am registered on Twitter too but I have heard too many tales of people getting into trouble by expressing their views on there and, as I would most likely fall into that category, I avoid it. In actual fact the sole reason for my registering was to support a former projectionist of mine, Steven, who, funnily enough, trained at the original Odeon (Blacks Regal) Gateshead and he was with me at the super ABC Westgate Road Newcastle which you would have loved as it had everything including 70mm in BOTH auditoria. The main auditorium still retained the cine variety stage although, apart from occasional personal appearances etc, it was never used after twinning.
Butterflying back to Twitter, however, Steven was absolutely besotted by the film ‘Oliver’ and years ago he created a really extensive website for the film which he keeps adding to (no financial assistance from Columbia, by the way)and it requires such a great bandwidth that he ran out of hosts. Finally he had to resort to Twitter and he asked me and various others to subscribe just for the sake of his website.
Re Ken Close, the last time I saw him was decades ago at ABC Huddersfield when he came to see one of those disaster films that were all the rage back then. I have never seen him since.
When Odeon Halifax closed, the Manager of the Odeon in my home town of Bishop Auckland, a lovely chap by the name of Walter Aylen, happened to pass away; Ken had worked there with Walter at one time.
Life has to go on and all that, so I rang Ken, who had just received his redundancy notice, to tell him about Bishop Auckland and to get his application in if he wanted to stay with Rank. This he duly did and I think that he was in with a chance until it was announced that the Pavilion Newcastle was to be belatedly added to the massive closure list that included Halifax and thus the Manager of the Pavilion, Jim Stewart,was appointed at Bishop Auckland, unfortunately…….
Ironically, 7 years later, it was the Manager of Bishop Auckland Odeon, Doris Hart (she followed Jim in there when he went to Stockton), who rang me to tell me about the impending early retirement of Archie Heaton at ABC Darlington (she used to be A/M at the Odeon there) and for me to get MY application in as she knew I did not like being at Chester…..
James, if you happen to read the above, this answers your question re Ken Close and he was – hopefully still is – one and the same. I shall try to get down there again in the near future (Chester Le Street Station is literally yards from my house) and likewise you’ll have to visit here.
All the best for now to you both.
I have uploaded a shot of the auditorium taken from the stage which will be more appropriate than the present profile photo which happens to be the Hippodrome prior to its 1963 reconstruction as the ABC Theatre.
I wish that there were some photos available of the stage from the auditorium. I used to have a May 1963 copy of the in house staff magazine ‘ABC NEWS’ which had a feature article and a number of photos of the place but unfortunately I gave it and many other issues to a friend in Sussex many years ago.
If anyone happens to have a copy, however, it would be obliging of them if they were to scan one of the photos I refer to and upload it to here. One is of the stage and proscenium with the house tabs fully across whilst another is of the stage show ‘Holiday Carnival’ with the full cast in front of the ABPC Elstree Studios backdrop.
I shall always maintain that there was and is not a theatre as wonderful as the ABC Blackpool – what a sad loss!
Just a ‘quick one’ for now (thinking back to Ann’s letter) as I am about to take the hound up to Waldridge Fell, one of our many local beauty spots, before the bright sunshine turns to snow……….
I wonder what happened to ‘The Dynamic Duo’, Ken and Ann the Management at the Odeon……they were rather different to dour old Jim Thompson at the ABC, weren’t they?
I expect to hear from one of my old mates, Frank Chambers, the last Manager of the ABC (he and his wife come to stay from time to time), who retired recently from the Grand Theatre Leeds. I shall ask him about Brian Whiteley who, I suspect, will now be in that ‘Art Deco Palace in the sky’. Certainly George Crosland is long departed along with all the rest of the ABC Huddersfield team. The last time I saw Brian was at ABC Darlington (now the Odeon – how things change!) when he and the District Engineer turned up to carry out an installation; he had a ‘cuppa’ in the office with the secretary and me and then went about his duties………
They were very happy days at Halifax, Danny and I often think back to them, not least because I was still young and good looking – at least according to Ann…………
I took over here for a fortnight in 1976 whilst it was still a single auditorium – and a very impressive place it was throughout. The double width circle staircase alone conjured up images of Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musicals…..
The film showing the first week was ‘Aces High’ one of EMI’s films which floundered during the record hot summer that year although the returns were quite respectable in Derby. I recall the Manager of the Odeon (Gaumont) presenting himself at the main office upstairs to ask permission to see the film and I took him into the circle just as the house tabs parted onto the BBFC Certificate…..brilliant timing!
I cannot for the life of me remember what was showing the second week but I recollect vividly my last evening there which was the opening Sunday of HG Wells' ‘The Food Of The Gods’ and while I was standing in the main foyer I heard an almighty sound of cheering and guffawing coming from the stalls. Bearing in mind that there was a large stalls foyer between the entrance hall and the auditorium it had to be loud indeed. When I entered the stalls I discovered that the racket was in response to a scene of a poor unfortunate being stung to death by giant wasps…..such was Sunday night audience behaviour back then!
I think that I transferred to Huddersfield from Wigan at around the time you returned to Halifax (you rang me once from the Rex at Elland) and I rose through the ranks, as it were, to manage the ABC’s South Shields, Chester, Darlington and Newcastle Upon Tyne.
I left the industry in 1995 and most of my contemporaries were doing likewise at the time or have followed since.
I have to say I am dumbfounded that you are still in the business; the last former projectionist of mine was made redundant last year from the Empire Newcastle (originally the new Odeon at the Gate) after digital came along; the former original Odeon Newcastle Chief met the same fate also at that time. Neither of them miss the industry as it became – and I most certainly don’t!
I am delighted that ABC had a good Pension Scheme and I am now a ‘gentleman of leisure’ although if something appealing on a part time basis were to come along (say 2 days midweek – no weekends!) I might consider it….some hope!
I see you are in touch with James from York and that you have an invite to his home cinema while you are back in the UK. He will make you most welcome!
The James you confused him with rang me once at ABC South Shields from the Odeon Barnsley where he had started as a Trainee Manager. This was back in 1980 and I have no idea how he progressed from there or where he happens to be now. He was a ‘canny lad’ as they say in these parts.
Keep in touch.
This debate happened to arise in the comments section of ABC Hanley and thus here it has remained.
Re MGM, the alternate circuit release pattern commenced with Hitchcock’s ‘North By North West’ in 1959 following a period of estrangement precipitated by the film ‘Gigi’ which ABC refused to present on a roadshow basis.
It is well known that Paramount Theatres were first offered to ABC but that the latter declined first refusal hence Rank’s more presitigious City Centre presence in those locations – that is not to say, however, that ABC’s outlets were any less popular- indeed, the Haymarket Newcastle’s box office receipts exceeded those of the Odeon for many years.
The ABC TV logo was similar to that of its cinema circuit whilst not being identical and everyone I knew in the North East associated it with local ABC Theatres, particularly the ABC Globe, Stockton (happily undergoing restoration) where, over the years, millions of people went to see first class live presentations from The Royal Ballet and English National Opera to pantomime and One Night Stands.
ABC were also represented in many locations where there was neither an Odeon nor a Gaumont including the University Cities of Oxford and Cambridge………
As I understand it, the debate was about Odeon and ABC as ‘brands’ as opposed to Rank or EMI and the like and there is no question that Cinven’s decision to adopt ‘Odeon’ was the correct one at the time.
In any event, the ‘points scoring’ which seems to have reared its ugly head is rather futile as we are all supposed to be friends here – or so I understood. The circuits as we remember them have all but disappeared and even the remaining Odeon cinemas have lost their charm and atmosphere as a result of further subdivision and austerity measures. Only the Odeon Leicester Square uses tabs nowadays and then only with 2D presentations and it is questionable for how much longer.
Some of my best friends were Rank Managers and,for all the ‘cut above’ attitude alluded to, our pay and conditions were superior to those of our Rank/Odeon opposite numbers. My dear deceased friend at Odeon Sunderland was on a thousand pounds a year less than I was on at ABC South Shields (a much less important location) back in 1980 and the poor chap’s pension was derisory when he was finally in receipt of it.
Fortunately for Rank and ABC,however,he, like most of us, was not in the industry primarily for the money but because of his love of it and there was a cooperation and camaraderie between Odeon and ABC Managers which co existed alongside a friendly rivarly which, I dare say, does not exist now – nor will ever do again.
I remember you and the staff at the old Odeon. I was with ABC when your old place closed and I got you a post at ABC Wigan where you worked as a projectionist for a short while before returning to the Halifax area.
Hope you are enjoying life ‘down under’.
I believe that the film which Paramount did not want to have released on the ‘National Circuit’ was ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ – which did very nicely, thank you………
The ABC name first appeared in 1928 as opposed to Odeon which emerged two years later. Even when the cinemas retained their individual names (Ritz, Regal, Savoy, Forum etc), the company logo also appeared on the Fronts Of House, press advertising and day titles on the screen.
After initial ‘big spend’ conversions, ABC (by now under the EMI banner) embarked upon a massive programme of conversions of varying standards. Many were ‘drop wall’ whilst others were slightly more expensive and involved the bringing forward of the screen for the main auditorium. The latter conversions did not always look better than the cheaper ‘drop wall’ variety as it depended on how neat the so called wall was and how well or otherwise original features were preserved and integrated into the main auditorium.
The conversions which were staggeringly awful were those carried out after the acquisition of Star Bingo in 1975 when the new ‘Social Centre’ Division (very philanthropic sounding) got their grasping hands on impressive and large cinemas like Plymouth, Wigan, Aldershot and others where the circle would be crudely divided into two or more screens whilst the Bingo brigade acquired the ‘lions share’ of the building (the stalls) and, more often than not, the greater part of the entrance foyer.
Despite all this, the circuit still retained many high standard venues and the iconic ABC name which, from the mid 1950’s until 1968, was also seen by millions of home viewers at the beginning of very popular series such as ‘The Avengers’, ‘Armchair Theatre’, ‘Redcap’, ‘Mystery And Imagination’ etc plus the big live Variety Shows networked from ‘Europe’s Most Luxurious Theatre’, the ABC Blackpool ; this was in addition to being the continuity logo in those areas where the company had the weekend TV franchises.
The devious acquisition by the ‘Poor Man’s Essoldo’,Cannon, in 1986, which would take far too long to go into detail about here,but which most certainly should not have been allowed to happen had the Monopolies & Mergers Commission done its job properly,killed off the ABC name and any remaining vestiges of respectability.
When it re emerged in 1997 the tatty ‘ABC’ signs (a tiny triangular ABC logo above the word ‘cinema’) appeared on a ‘rag bag’ of cinemas as diverse as the very best city centre venues such as Edinburgh to shocking dives like Ealing (not the ‘proper’ ABC, the ex Forum)which had been part of Star, Classic etc – in short, places which the ‘proper’ ABC Company would either have not wanted in the first place or would have disposed of to the likes of Essoldo in the 1940’s and 1950’s……
As for product alignment, M-G-M was,in its heyday,larger than Columbia, Universal and United Artists combined and had the most prolific output of the Hollywood majors. Warner Bros were also one of ‘The Big Five’. ABPC did not have as large an output as Rank, but the major films they did produce were very profitable. It must be considered also that whilst Paramount & Universal Pictures did not appear on ABC screens until after disagreements with Rank, their association with the former was longer lasting than with Rank as far as alignment was concerned.
To conclude, and to imagine a hypothetical situation, had venture capitalists been around many decades ago and acquired the Odeon and ABC circuits (one has to imagine the absence of a body such as the then M & M Commission – not that it was of any use in 1986 with the Cannon debacle), it would have been highly debatable as to which name would have been retained had a choice had to be made.
I am sorry that it has taken so long to respond. At one time Cinema Treasures used to inform me via my linked e-mail address of any replies to comments but they have ceased doing so for some reason.
My assertion on this site re the ‘pop’ shows was as a result of my former Manager, John McIntosh’s direct appeal to me to do so on his behalf and I suppose that I should have said this.
He was Manager at the ABC Playhouse from 1967 until its closure by EMI in 1970 following its sale to Tesco who had made an offer that could not be refused. There were certainly no pop concerts during John’s term of office and he was aware of none during the previous Manager, Bill Spinks' time there either.
The conversion to a supermarket failed to proceed after it was ascertained that there would be problems with deliveries etc. The building then stayed shuttered and empty until its acquisition by Mecca for bingo which preserved the place until they pulled out. This is now happening country wide as new purpose built venues supersede former cinemas. I never thought that I would say this but I think it is a great shame as at least the places still existed with their architectural features largely intact in most cases.
The photo at the top of the main page is definitely not of the ABC Forum proscenium and whilst I was never based at the theatre I did carry out managerial relief duties there for ABC in the 1970’s. The Front Of House and two foyer photos are certainly of the ABC Forum.
I shall ask Bill Mather,retired former CEO of Fairworld Cinemas, to look at the auditorium shot to give a second opinion.
The first looks like the original auditorium of the Victoria Cambridge…….
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.