ABC Islington

161-169 Essex Road,
London, N1 2SN

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ABC Islington

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Located in the north London inner-city district of Islington. The Carlton Cinema opened on 1st September 1930 with Harold Lloyd in “Welcome Danger”. It was built as a cine-variety theatre for independent exhibitors C & R Theatres.

Architect George Coles excelled himself with this lavish building which has a magnificent Egyptian style facade dressed in multi-coloured Hathernware tiles. Inside the building the style changes to an Empire style with Egyptian touches in the foyer and then into the auditorium which is a delightful French Renaissance style. Seating was provided in stalls and balcony levels and there was a cafe for patrons. It was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/6Rank theatre organ that was opened by Phil French. Full stage facilities were included on the 26 feet deep stage and there were four dressing rooms.

The Carlton Cinema was taken over by Associated British Cinemas Ltd.(ABC) from February 1935. It was re-named ABC in 1962. It closed on 5th August 1972 with Reg Varney in “Mutiny on the Buses”. The building was converted into a bingo hall which continued for almost 35 years as the Mecca Bingo Club, until closing in March 2007.

It was purchased by a church, and there are plans to create two small spaces beneath the circle, while the original circle and front stalls will be used for church services on Sundays. The church also plans to reopen as a cinema, using the circle seating area and converting the former cafe area into a second screen. Church use began in late-summer 2013.

It is a Grade II* Listed building.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on February 10, 2009 at 7:17 am

A set of photographs of the Carlton/ABC, including vintage interior shots from April 1987:
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AdoraKiaOra on February 10, 2009 at 7:24 am

That has to be one of the best photo sets on here!

woody on November 25, 2009 at 11:35 am

photos from 2002 ish of the exterior as the Mecca

and a facebook group by the church that are planning to restore and reopen the Carlton
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the cinema was one of the filming locations this summer for the low budget British serial killer film TONY – out in cinemas next February, shot at the rear of the cinema and using the stairs and offices as a squat used by drug dealers

Olga on December 1, 2009 at 9:56 am

good news! this building will be cinema again!

visit our Carlton Cinema page on Facebook
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davepring on December 2, 2009 at 10:13 am

on the pathe news website there is a short film of a stage show at the Carlton in the early 1930s…the film shows 7 grand pianos being played on stage and the camera pans around the auditorium.In the closing moments you see the original screen tabs and organ,marvelous stuff!

davepring on December 2, 2009 at 10:54 am in carlton islington in the search bar..details below:


Full titles read: “EIGHT PIANO RHAPSODY – Produced by Phil Finch. Filmed at Carlton Cinema, Islington, London.”

L/S’s of the pianists playing their pianos (it’s quite a spectacle). There are several good C/U’s and M/S’s of the pianists (Unfortunately this cataloguer cannot identify them). L/S’s and M/S’s of the audience watching solemnly from their seats.

Issue Date: 23/10/1933 Sound: Yes
Time in: 01:18:11:00 Time out: 01:21:49:00
Canister: PT 187 Film ID: 1090.12
Sort number: PT 187 Tape: PM1090
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Simon Overton
Simon Overton on January 17, 2010 at 10:29 pm

As of this date I am unable to open the

davepring on April 6, 2010 at 10:17 am

Just checked the site Simon and it does work :)

SMorgan on May 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm

The earlier Facebook link wasn’t working for me, this one should:

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