ABC Leicester

46 Belgrave Gate,
Leicester, LE1

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ABC Leicester 1985

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The Savoy Cinema was built for and operated by the Associated British Cinemas chain(ABC), and opened on 4th June 1937 with John Lodge in “Sensation”. It was designed in an Art Deco style by ABC’s in-house architect William R. Glen with further input from C. Wilford Smith. The cinema was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/6Rank organ which had an illuminated console and a Melotone attached. It was opened by Wilfred Southworth. There was a small stage and dressing rooms which was used in the early days and in the 1960’s pop concerts were held. In 1959 the Savoy Cinema was equipped with Todd A-O and 70mm projection and it had a long run with a Roadshow presentation of “South Pacific”.

It was re-named ABC in 1960 and the cinema was twinned in 1970 with 606 seats in the former circle and 910 seats in the screen located in the former stalls. It was at this time that the organ was removed and it is now installed in the Regent Theatre, Fleggburgh near Great Yarmouth. In 1973 the rear of the former stalls was divided into two screens that seated 410 and 232.

ABC were taken over by EMI and then Cannon and it was re-named Cannon Film Centre. In 1991 Cannon were no long in charge and the name changed again to MGM and finally back to ABC. It closed on 16th January 1997 with a screening of “Star Trek-First Contact”. It then remained closed and boarded up. In March 2006 plans were approved to demolish the building and build a ten-storey apartment block, 100 bedroom hotel, casino and shops on the site.

In 2007, the bulldozers moved in and by the end of the year, the former Savoy Cinema was no more. In March 2008, the site is an empty plot, used for car-parking.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on September 17, 2006 at 1:33 pm

A photograph of the ABC Leicester that I took in July 1965:

Ian on December 29, 2006 at 12:55 am

Another photo when under the Cannon name in 1995:–

View link

Ian on March 27, 2007 at 5:20 am

Work stripping out the former ABC Savoy started in February, ahead of demolition.

Mike69 on June 9, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Sadly the cinema is now having its heart riped out. View link

I would love to see a photo of the inside of the cinema in its youth, as well as the compton organ.

awj on March 6, 2008 at 6:26 am

I would like to correct a small mistake in the details above.I worked at the cinema from 1965 to closure and when converted to a twin cinema,the whole of the stalls area was used for screen 2.
Demolition was completed toward the end of 2007 and at time of writing(march ‘08),the area is in use as a car park.
I would love to add some photos when this feature is up and running.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on March 6, 2008 at 7:23 am

alanproj; Thanks for the clarification. It has now been amended.

awj on December 27, 2010 at 11:42 am

Heres a photo from my collection.


cnauld on April 22, 2012 at 11:32 am

I worked there in the 90s.Great to see Alan’s pics with Ian the last Chief Projectionist. Great cinema to work in,pity i was not able to run 70mm there. Bill

MikeJC on June 12, 2012 at 8:11 am

I served my appreticeship in Leicester from 1961 to 1966 and this was my absolute favourite cinema. I was fortunate enough to hear the organ played by Clifford Birchall as a prelude to the film “Can-Can” in 1961 – perhaps the last time it was played in public. The instrument was not very loud (at least not in the balcony) and I began to wonder if it was installed out in the car park! To be fair though, it could just have been that Mr Birchall was being restrained, so as not to drive out the non-organ lovers.

Mike_Blakemore on June 12, 2012 at 8:27 am

Thanks MikeJC for jolting a memory. I worked with Clifford Birchall (He was one of the better ABC organists) for just over 14 days at the Imperial Walsall. We both had got lumbered for the Bingo Opening… He composed a famous march. But cannot for the life remember the name.. Our Zone Manager L.S. Barry was based here.. Lucky I did not have to releive at this Cinema :o)

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