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The Regal Cinema opened on 19 September 1938, just three months after the large Odeon opened. It was however in a much better location on Ward’s End crossroad. There was an entertainment venue on each corner of the intersection, the Victoria Theatre (Civic), the Picture House (a Gaumont property) and an independent cinema occupied the other three corners. The Alexandra, Electric, and Theatre Royal were also nearby.
Designed by William R. Glen (ABC’s in-house architect), the Regal Cinema was a particularly fine 1,938-seat cinema, with 1,250 seats in the stalls and 688 in the balcony. A shallow stage was provided and four dressing rooms. The proscenium was wide and surrounded by an elaborate plaster fretwork concealing ventilation ducts. On either side were niches containing tall slender figurines which were not dis-similar to the ‘Oscar’ statues.
The cinema was tripled in 1976 (having been renamed ABC in 1961) and reopened on 12 September with 670 in screen 1, the original circle using the original unaltered screen, and 200 and 173 seats in screens 2 & 3 situated under the balcony.
Renamed Cannon and then back to ABC the cinema closed suddenly in 2002 having been bought for use as a nightclub.
Fortunately it was designated a Grade II Listed building in 2000. This has ensured that all elements of the original (it had survived basically intact) are to be preserved. English Heritage described it as ‘Long curved stone exterior. A handsome surviving classical auditorium. One of the best of the few surviving original ABC auditoria’. However the construction of the nightclub, using the stalls area only, will effectively conceal all trace of the original design. The circle will not be used at all. What a waste!
Work on the insertion of the nightclub began in the Summer of 2002.
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