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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…..
Whilst based in Wigan as an Assistant manager for ABC I used to often do relief duties in Halifax and I became very friendly with the Management of the Odeon. Both the Manager, Ken Close and Assistant Manager, Anne Wooley used to frequently come along to the ABC and vice versa. On a Sunday when cinemas closed early we all used to meet in the Star Pub opposite the Odeon and, as I recall, certain projection staff from the Astra (former Gaumont)used to pop in also.
Although it had long been ‘on the cards’ I was very sad to see the Odeon close as its demise also meant losing contact with the pleasant bunch of people who ran the place. There was a big farewell party after the last night of films which was held upstairs in the disused restaurant. Peter Talbot, Operations Manager also attended as he had been Manager there in the mid 1960’s. Years later I became reacquainted with Peter when I became ABC’s Manager in Newcastle Upon Tyne and where he was my opposite number……..
Although none of the 30’s Halifax ‘super cinemas’ now show films it is at least good to know that they survive in one form or another; today’s multiplexes can never conjure up the atmosphere of the likes of the Odeon, ABC Regal etc etc……
My former Manager at ABC Wigan and good friend, John McIntosh was the very last Manager at the ABC Playhouse when it closed in 1970 with a live production presented by DEWSBURY COLLEGIANS AMATEUR OPERATIC SOCIETY in the December of that year. There were, however, no One Night Stand Pop Concerts on the stage of the Dewsbury ABC as it was barred by Leeds and Bradford from presenting such shows……..
Occasionally on a Saturday Morning at the ABC Minors personal appearances were made on stage by celebrities of the day such as Peter Firth and David Bradley aka'The Flaxton Boys' which was a very popular TV Series produced by Yorkshire Television between 1969 and 1973.
A small cinema with a big feel – the ABC Deansgate used to be solidly booked for weeks and months ahead which gave it an air of exclusivity and was known as the cinema you could never get into.
Not everyone appreciated this intimacy, however, and when ‘My Fair Lady’ had its roadshow run there a friend of mine, whilst having his hair cut at a Manchester Barber’s, overheard a conversation in which a disgruntled person said “Fancy showing a lovely film like ‘My Fair Lady’ in a poky place like the Deansgate when we have the Gaumont!”
He obviously did not understand product alignment and agreements between certain distributors and exhibitors and,of course, why should he have? – his sentiments were,after all,quite valid.
ABC, of course, had at one time operated the Theatre Royal, Peter Street, which became Manchester’s cinerama theatre. They later purchased a valuable site on Oxford Street on which was to be built a prestigious ABC but I understand that this did not materialise because they received a very generous offer from a developer for the site. When that company once again addressed the matter of not having an actual city centre venue in Manchester(they had many large cinemas on the periphery the best example being the huge Apollo Ardwick), the only place available was the small, but generally highly regarded,Deansgate Picture House which included a busy restaurant. At this time it was part of the Brennan’s Circuit(which included the Queen’s Theatre, Blackpool)whose Head Office was at the Deansgate.
Double confusion in Darlington as some dozen or so years after the Majestic became the Odeon a neighbouring CMA (Rank – Gaumont Division) Cinema, the Arcade on Skinnergate, was converted into the Majestic Ballroom and it survives today as the Gala Bingo Club. To further compound matters some two decades after the Odeon (ex Majestic) closed as a cinema, the ABC (former Regal) on Northgate became the Odeon! In the heyday of Darlington Cinemas (there were nine) the latter had the largest capacity – by 40 seats…..the ABC Regal seating 1620 and the Odeon (Majestic) with 1580.
The Odeon, Bondgate, Darlington,was going to become a drop wall triple cinema – IE the original circle looking onto the original proscenium as screen 1 and two mini cinemas in the underhang of the circle (IE in the rear stalls).
A problem arose whereby there would be insufficient clearance (owing to the positioning of the main supporting girder)for the projection from port to screen in the two ‘minis’. The conversion was therefore cancelled.
The ABC(Regal)Northgate had been conspicuous by its absence from a list of proposed conversions of ABC Theatres published in 1976 from which one could deduce that the writing was on the wall for that venue. However, as soon as it became known about the problem with the Odeon (Majestic), the ABC was not only added to that list but was rushed ahead in the queue and was converted in very much the same manner which had been intended for the Odeon (Majestic).
So, had the best laid plans of mice and men gone ahead the Odeon (Majestic) would have seen the ABC off instead of vice versa and, I dare say, would eventually have been further sub divided like most surviving Odeons.
Anyway, it seems very likely that the Vue Complex is finally going to go ahead in Darlington and that surely will spell the end for the Regal/ABC/Cannon/ABC/Odeon, Northgate.
Union Cinemas, who briefly operated the Majestic prior to its purchase by Oscar Deutsch, were taken over by Odeon’s rival company, ABC. Union had plans to open a brand new Ritz Cinema in Darlington but this failed to materialise. A possible reason for this could have been that ABC (who already had the Regal Northgate) were able to cancel the project upon their acquisition of Union. Had it come to fruition and had, in turn, the Majestic been a Union Cinemas outlet upon takeover by ABC then that company would have had the three largest and most modern cinemas in Darlington and it is therefore debatable as to which of those three would have been retained.
The Wallaw, whilst briefly operated by Classic Cinemas, never was renamed ‘Classic’ – see my comment after the Essoldo Blyth article.
The ‘Wallaw’ Cinema was never renamed ‘Classic’ as when, in 1955, the original owner/operator, Walter Lawson, sold the building to ABC, he had a clause inserted in the sale contract stating that the name ‘Wallaw’ was to be retained. ABC did have their triangular Company Logo on the front of house to indicate clearly that whilst the cinema’s name was ‘Wallaw’ it was indeed part of the Associated British Cinemas Circuit.
When ABC leased the building to Arnold Scheckman in 1970 the same conditions applied and when, in turn, he leased it to Classic Cinemas early in 1972 (together with the Apollo Newcastle and the Princes North Shields)they continued to operate it as the ‘Wallaw’. This, by the way, was a few months before the takeover of the Essoldo circuit by Classic Cinemas.
So, ironically, for a brief period in the early 1970’s Classic had two large cinemas in Blyth – but neither were ever to be given the Company Name.
The sad looking Front Of House of the boarded up Kings taken soon after closure.
The Essoldo had a female Chief projectionist who appears in this clip from 1966
I have only just stumbled upon your response; in the past ‘Cinema Treasures’,via the linked e-mail address, would advise me of a reply to a comment only for it to be merely an additional observation added by someone. Ironically,in this instance,they did not bother………..
Anyway, I did indeed manage the ABC Westgate Road, having transferred to Newcastle upon Tyne (initially at the Haymarket Theatre)from the ABC Chester which I managed subsequent to ABC’s disposal of South Shields. I did for a brief period look after the two large Newcastle venues simultaneously.
I would not enjoy working in film exhibition these days as I detest the multiplex format. They may be comfortable and have good sound with digital stereo but are otherwise soulless. In relation to the sound I perhaps should substitute ‘loud’ for ‘good’ and utilise the expression ‘over the top’ to describe the digital stereo. The loudness is often necessary to compensate for bad audience behaviour in the unattended auditoria whilst the digital stereo is perpetual and unrelenting.
I recall with affection the 70mm venues which ABC had in most major cities. 6 track magnetic stereo was used in these situations. The concave screens would vary between 50' and 90' in width whilst the principle of ‘less is more’ was the order of the day in the case of the stereophonic sound. By that I mean that the stereo effect would only be used in scenes where it would best enhance the image on the screen; it was indeed spectacular used in this way.
A handful of wonderful venues exist today (mainly independents) whereby the atmospheric ambiance of the old time cinemas is combined with modern seating, configuration and amenities. The Plaza Stockport, Rex Berkhamstead and the Odeon Leicester Square (probably the last Odeon theatre to use house and screen tabs in addition to retaining its Compton Organ) would perhaps best exemplify the types of theatres to which I refer.
It closed a month after the sly and underhand takeover by that Cannon shower of the ABC Circuit – thereby sparing the ABC York the indignity of having the tatty Cannon signage attached to the building as well as the horrid day titles on the screen and the nasty artwork in the press…….
Whichever theatre this happens to be it is certainly not the ABC FORUM/FAIRWORLD………
The Plaza was all on one level although there was a rear section with a steeper rake – but certainly not stepped. It was still open well after February 1974 and whilst I am not 100% certain about when closure finally came, I believe that it was in 1976 or 1977.