130-140 Church Street,
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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.
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