ABC Blackpool

130-140 Church Street,
Blackpool, FY1 3PR

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ABC Theatre

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The Empire Theatre & Opera House opened on 4th July 1895 and was designed in an Italian Renaissance style by Manchester architect John Dent Harker. In 1900 it became the Hippodrome Theatre and presented a circus. A raked floor was added in 1910 and it became a cine/variety theatre, seating 2,500. It was taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) in April 1929, and the seating capacity was increased to 2,820. Plans were proposed to rebuild the Hippodrome Theatre in 1939, but the outbreak of World War II halted this. The Hippodrome Theatre closed in 1960.

Much of the old theatre was demolished, except the outer walls and the new ABC Theatre was rebuilt in the shell of the old. The ABC Theatre opened on 31st May 1963 with the summer season stage show “Holiday Carnival” starring Cliff Richard and the Shadows. It was designed by architect C.J. Foster with seating for 1,934 in stalls and circle, it was a very modern theatre with gold seats and tabs. It was used for stage shows during the summer months, with films and concerts during the winter seasons. It was permanently wired up for TV transmissions and during the 1960’s ABC Weekend Television transmitted their ‘Blackpool Night Out’ shows from the ABC. The popular summer shows starred the likes of Frank Ifield, Morecambe & Wise, Cilla Black, Tommy Steele and Englebert Humperdink. The Beatles also played in concert here in 1963. It was one of the few theatres in Britain to have a permanent revolving stage.

The ABC Theatre was closed for conversion into a triple screen cinema in January 1981, completely ruining a fine modern theatre. Re-opening on 30th April 1981, ABC 1 (in the former circle) seated 728, ABC 2 & ABC 3 (in the former stalls area) seated 321 & 231. No more stage shows were possible after the tripling, although the old stage with revolve and safety curtain remained unused behind the conversion and was used for storage. Renamed the Cannon in 1986, then MGM from May 1993. Final closure as a cinema came in December 1998, by which time it had been re-named ABC again.

After four years closure, it reopened as the Syndicate Night Club in December 2002, with none of the 1963 designed interior remaining. The Syndicate Night Club closed around 2010. The building was demolished in August 2015.

Contributed by Richard Roper (abcman)

Recent comments (view all 39 comments)

Mike_Blakemore on July 12, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I forgot to mention from my notes Modernisation Ltd., The Freize-Greene company did the interior decor and fittings. I believe it was Hall Stage that fitted out the stage house

LoveCinema on July 27, 2014 at 11:35 pm

Being raised in a family with cinematic background in a small town in Germany (my Great Grandparents opened their first Cinema back in 1929)I’ve always been “addicted” to Cinema since.

I remember going to the “ABC” Blackpool whilst staying in Poulton-Le-Fylde with my british stepfather and family attending great Summer Shows.

In 1984 I experienced the “ABC” (big Auditorium) as a technically perfect Cinema, but undergoing dramatic convertions, of course. Sorry to see it being pulled down. Happy Memories.

Robbie25646 on July 28, 2014 at 5:54 am

I spent a wonderful summer season here with Tommy Steele, Billy Dainty and Mary Hopkin, I think it was 1968 loved every minute of it.

terry on September 4, 2014 at 1:26 pm

From the British Pathe Library :– (The opening of ABC Blackpool at 05:20)

The Beatles Live: ABC Blackpool 1965 :–

Watch out for the all-star line up at the end!

terry on April 27, 2015 at 1:57 pm

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!

70mmbobbyj on August 13, 2015 at 9:32 am

The save the ABC Facebook page has posted a picture showing the demolition of the building.

terry on September 17, 2016 at 11:47 am

Image uploaded to photos section.

terry on September 23, 2016 at 10:30 am

3 images uploaded.

rasLXR on September 25, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Most of the Summer Season shows went to the ABC Great Yarmouth the following season.

terry on September 25, 2016 at 2:08 pm

Although, as I recall, the Dick Emery Show in 1976 was presented at ABC Great Yarmouth the previous year ie 1975.

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