ABC Dunstable

51 High Street North,
Dunstable, LU6 1JF

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Union Cinema

The Union Cinema was built by Union Cinemas Ltd. chain, and was located next to the older (and smaller) Palace Cinema which they also operated.

It opened as the Ritz Cinema on 27th September 1937 with John Lodge in "Bulldog Drummond at Bay" and Charlie Ruggles in "Mind Your Own Business". The facade has five windows which allowed light into the cafe which was located in the circle foyer. There is a panel on the facade depicting a female figure in stone relief offering film spools aloft to a draped proscenium. Inside the auditorium there are decorative niches which run the full height of the walls over the front stalls exits next to the proscenium. Soon after opening it was re-named Union Cinema.

Associated British Cinemas(ABC) took over the Union Cinemas circuit in October 1937 and they retained the Union Cinema name until 1961 when it was re-named ABC. In 1969 it was taken over by the Star Cinemas Circuit of Leeds and re-named Studio Cinema.

Very soon afterward, the Studio went over to part time bingo and films ceased on 14th February 1973. It became a full time bingo club named the Union Bingo Club. By 2001 the bingo club had closed and it was converted into a nightclub named ‘Cubes’ which opened on 13th June 2002. The nightclub apparently closed by early-2009. In 2010, it was restored and re-opened in February 2011 as the Dunstable Conference Centre.

The former Union Cinema was granted Grade II Listed building status by English Heritage in March 1999.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

benrayner on March 15, 2009 at 7:12 am

and an auditorium view from 1937 also on flickr.
View link

benrayner on March 15, 2009 at 7:16 am

and altho the nightclub appears to have closed maybe there is hope for sensitive preservation in the following local paper report
Community church planning to expand into former nightclub
By Bev Peck

Scheme lodged with council to renovate Cubes

Dunstable Community Church, in High Street North, hopes to take over the former Cubes nightclub building. Plans have already been submitted to South Beds District Council to renovate and change the use of the former nightspot, which is just yards away from their original building.

The church is keen to move into the extra space due to massive growth during 2008. Senior pastor Doug Richards said: “We are excited about the chance to restore this property to its former glory and make it available for the use and enjoyment of the whole community.”

The church plans to keep its current building as its headquarters.

Everyone is welcome at Dunstable Community Church. Services take place every Sunday at 10.45am and 6pm.

For further details on the church, call the offices on 01582 477147 or visit

DavidZornig on March 16, 2009 at 6:18 am

It’s interesting to see the slight upward grade of the side street to the cinema’s left.
I wonder if that played any role in how the ABC’s auditorium was originally laid out? Or if i was excavated further donward towards the screen. Assuming the screen was loacted at the back.

Ian on March 16, 2009 at 6:37 am

The screen is / was at the rear so yes the front stalls must have been excavated to some degree. Given its listed status, I am assuming that much of the original design remains in the nightclub, albeit possibly hidden from view. The photo above from 1937 shows a very stylish interior.

Ian on February 12, 2011 at 3:18 am

Now restored and re-opened as the Dunstable Conference Centre – flat stalls floor raked balcony, 1,000 seats.

Ian on September 1, 2012 at 3:46 am

Not really registered before, but I have just noticed how the upright Union name hides the deco bas-relief panel above the central window. I assume that the two uploaded photos are fairly close to opening, judging from the traffic, so it is strange that a key part of the fa├žade should be hidden, either from the start or very soon after.

Mike_Blakemore on September 1, 2012 at 4:06 am

Union Cinemas did go over the top on promoting the Brand “Union Cinemas” They did it every where, even take over shows.. When I worked for ABC I had a discussion with Mr.D Combes. (forgot is Christan Name at the mo.) who was at Head Office. He came with the Union Take over by ABC.. Union Cinema Sign usualy overshadowed the name of the Theatre, which was normaly “RITZ” (He was kind to me.. and gave me a load of pictures)

westfield on October 10, 2012 at 11:20 am

Is the stone relief on the front exclusive to this cinema and does anyone have any information about it or a clear picture……?

Buffer on January 25, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Interior photo of bingo hall taken in Sept 1999

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