Showing 1 - 25 of 104 comments
Two more ‘Roadshow’ photos uploaded – more to follow…..
If only, Empire_fan ! Nice thought anyway……..
2 auditorium shots uploaded as it was when ABC briefly ran it.
Interior shot of the original auditorium has been added to the photos section.
I have uploaded a photo of ABC 1 (former stalls).
The 600 seats of screen 1 seen here occupied a space large enough for over 900 conventional cinema seats of the time. These, in fact, are from the stalls of the ABC Blackpool which were surplus to requirements following the sad tripling of that venue resulting in the cessation of live shows.
The original Essoldo seats were even more comfortable as they were complete with headrests. ABC sent them back to Essoldo Furnishings in Glasgow as they were becoming ever more cost conscious and the original seats had to be maintained by Essoldo and not ABC’s in house seating, carpeting and upholstery team.
You have presented your credentials very assertively: good for you!
It is amazing how our words can be distorted, for example it was put to me that I was under the misapprehension that multiplexes had led to a change in fire and safety regulations. The regulations were not changed (at least back then); they were simply flouted with impunity. It was also said that I blamed the said multiplexes for bad audience behaviour when I actually said that the less than minimal staffing levels therein happen to facilitate the kind of misconduct referred to.
I also gave the impression that I blame modern technology for the lack of presenation standards when in fact I expressed my dismay that today’s state of the art technology does not go hand in hand with the presentation that you and I knew and expected.
I am also sure that your cinemas would have been well maintained as indeed were the ones in Newcastle where I spent a number of happy years as Manager & Licensee.
When I moved house nearly four years ago I gave many items, including photos of cinemas I managed, to an old Independent Circuit CEO friend of mine who went on to own and operate two of his own before retiring; what you have said about film renters he would back up. He did refuse to play films at times and he was threatened on more than one occasion with being deprived of further product but he stood his ground and won. Once multiplexes sprung up in the vicinity he no longer had this leeway and the renters conveniently forgot that he had provided them with outlets to their product in many North Eastern locations from where the circuits had retreated.
Re the photos, I shall ask him to scan some of the ones of ABC Westgate Road Newcastle (listed on here as Cannon) which we ran in conjunction with the Art Deco Haymarket Theatre and I shall upload them to the page devoted to it.
Hi Mike – as you say sometimes there was no choice for the public and I remember Warner Bros ‘concern’ about having nowhere to exhibit their product as I was Manager at Newcastle ABC when they decided to come along. It had a capacity of 973 within 2 auditoria of 600 and 373 seats; the building had once seated 2200. It had 70mm and 6 track mag in both auditoria, ‘Sensurround’, Dolby Stereo and a Licensed Bar whilst the 25 feet deep stage was retained in the larger stalls auditorium for Personal Appearances at Regional Premieres etc. A more comfortable theatre I have never experienced either as a paying customer or as an employee in the Industry.
We were just recovering (Cannon having acquired us did not help) from AMC’s onslaught on Tyneside when WB decided to land in the city which also had a huge Odeon with auditoria ranging from 1228 seats down to 150. There was also the Art House, The Tyneside with a large auditorium of 390 seats and a ‘mini’ of 120 seats within adjacent property. There were still one or 2 decent sized and well run suburban independents. So Newcastle really was in need of outlets for WB to screen its product, wasn’t it?
It is also strange that over the years we had to really ‘watch our backs’ regarding manning levels in case of a visit by the Fire Dept and yet when these multiplexes appeared they seemed to be able to disregard every Home Office Regulation and Local Authority Licensing Stipulation relating to staff – as they do to this very day.
The few people I know who still visit a cinema occasionally – invariably a multiplex because there is nothing else – tell me that they cannot hear the film because of rowdy behaviour in the auditorium and that, upon trying to alert staff re the matter, there are simply none to find. Consequently, it is a very long time before they decide to pay another visit – and then only to find that the same circumstances prevail. As an illustration, people having loud and protracted conversations on mobile phones with their friends in another part of the auditorium seems to be one of the most popular activities.
Re WB in Newcastle ; this closed in 2004 having been bought by the University Of Northumbria as a site for a new campus. My Brother In Law is a Programme leader/Senior Lecturer there and he said to me at the time -albeit with a sardonic tone in his voice – that I would be delighted to learn that 90 percent of the building materials of the Warner had been recycled in the construction of the new University and I replied, using the same amount of irony, that I was most elated to learn this!
I know some retired independent cinema operators who did precisely that and managed to get away with it as, having the only venue in a particular locality, the big boys, UIP, Col-War etc had no option but to play their product there. As you say, once the multiplexes came along that was no longer an option as people defected to them anyway regardless of whether they were an improvement on existing theatres; they often were but in many instances were certainly not.
No – but I would have told UIP what to do with it…..
Yes, it was ironic that I made my comment on this particular page, Loew’s being the Parent Company of MGM and responsible for the magnificent reconstruction of the Empire as ‘The Showplace of the Nation’ – oops…….
Whilst American Production Companies had a presence in the West End as well as Paramount’s foray into certain provincial cities which was very short lived, it could hardly compare with the 1980’s ‘invasion’…
Had UK cinemas NOT been badly subdivided but instead been re seated to the standards of current alternative cinemas (Odyssey St Albans etc), IE one third of original capacity (entailing complete restepping of circles) with all the luxury elements now expected whilst, of course, incorporating all the latest technical innovations, the cinema going experience would be much more enjoyable than the current one.
Cinemas used to be in vibrant town and city centres, had imposing entrances, lush foyers, marvellous decor and brilliant standards of presentation (including the use of house and screen curtains) which all added to the cinema ‘experience’ and anticipation…….
This has all largely gone and when I hear about laser projection and IMAX screens etc etc I wonder what is so great about it all as, at the end of the day, there is no magic to celebrate – it is all purely functional and rather flat.
By this, I certainly do not wish to imply that we should not have all the latest technical advancements merely that it would be nice if they were available alongside the ‘old fashioned trimmings’ and ambience I refer to. Perhaps, for once, a leaf should be taken from the book of the USA and that current day operators take a look at Grauman’s Chinese and what has been successfully achieved there.
I can hear people saying “Move with the times!” but this is my opinion, nevertheless……….
I have also uploaded a Panto Programme from 1960 in the photos section.
I have uploaded a photo of the ABC Westgate Road taken during its heyday as the Essoldo. As seen, the building was at its most impressive in the evening when all the neon lighting provided a great effect.
I have uploaded a watercolour of the Hippodrome purportedly showing ‘Ben Hur’. Actually, I saw ‘Ben Hur’ at Bishop Auckland Hippodrome (Essoldo) on a Friday Evening in early 1962 and this was followed by a visit 3 nights later to see ‘King Of Kings’ at nearby Shildon Hippodrome, the subject of the painting. Biblical Epics were all the rage back then!
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!