252 High Street,
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Previously operated by: Associated British Cinemas Ltd., Cannon Cinemas, Star Cinemas
Architects: William Riddell Glen
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Savoy Luxury Super Cinema, Savoy Cinema, EMI ABC Cinema
The Savoy Luxury Super Cinema was built for and operated by the Associated British Cinemas(ABC) chain. It was located opposite the Plaza Cinema (former Hippodrome Theatre) and close by the Theatre Royal, set back on London Inn Square (which no longer exists) at the corners of High Street, New North Road and Bailey Street.
It opened on 23rd November 1936 with Shirley Temple in “Captain January” & Joseph Schmidt in “A Star Fell From Heaven”. Designed by ABC’s in-house architect William R. Glen, seating was provided for 1,224 in the stalls and 734 in the circle. The proscenium was 42 feet wide. The Savoy Luxury Super Cinema was equipped with a Compton ‘Super’ 3Manual/6Ranks organ which was opened by organist Reginal Porter Brown from the Regal Torquay (the resident organist was Harold Stringer). A pub named The London Inn was part of the building.
On 4th May 1942 the Savoy Cinema was hit by several German fire bombs which were quickly put out by fire watchers on the roof of the building. However one fire bomb did manage to penetrate into the cinema and the Compton organ console was destroyed.
In November 1960, it was re-named ABC. On 28th March 1963 The Beatles appeared on stage at the ABC as a supporting act to Tommy Roe & Chris Montez. They returned on two more occasions, this time as headliners on 14th November 1963 and again on 28th October 1964. Cliff Richard & The Shadows appeared on stage on 18th November 1964. Other stars who appeared at the ABC were comedians Morecambe & Wise on 15th & 16th October 1971, and Roy Orbison and comedian Frankie Howard were the final two live shows.
By 1972, the ABC chain was being operated by EMI, and the ABC was closed on 30th September 1972, for conversion into a triple. The Compton organ was removed from the building. The circle was extended forward to the proscenium and rear stage wall, creating a 528-seat auditorium. A second auditorium seating 170 was created on the former upper stage area. The original stalls area and stage was converted into a Star Bingo Club, operated by the Star Cinemas chain. On 25th January 1973 screen 2 opened with Marlon Brando in “The Godfather”. For a while, The London Inn pub had its own street entrance next to the main cinema entrance.
In 1986, it was taken over by the Cannon Group, but retained its ABC name. This was short lived, as Cannon closed the ABC on 4th June 1987 with Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” and Julie Walters in “Personal Services” as the final films. It was demolished on August Bank Holiday Monday 1987. A Dillon’s bookstore (today a Waterstones) and offices were built on part of the site.
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Recent comments (view all 2 comments)
Vintage photographs of the ABC Exeter:
In July 1972, prior to conversion to tripling:
As a twin cinema and bingo club in October 1973:
The new 528-seat auditorium in the former circle, in 1973:
Great photos as always Ken.