ABC Hanley

18 Broad Street,
Hanley, ST1 4EU

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ABC Hanley

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Located in the potteries town of Hanley, Staffordshire. The ABC Cine-Bowl was opened on 23rd August 1963 with Charlie Drake in "The Cracksman". The 1,320-seat cinema had all its seats on a single level, and was located upstairs from the 28-lane ABC 10-Pin Bowling Alley. Organist Peter Kilby played the ABC’s touring Hammond elecronic organ. The Todd-AO screen was 60 feet wide x 20 feet high, with the CinemaScope ratio being 47 feet wide and the same height, and ordinary widescreen was 37 feet wide. The ABC circuit were taken over by EMI in 1969.

In May 1977, it was closed for tripling, and re-opened on 25th August 1977 with three screens, seating 573, 233 and 162. In 1985 the Cannon Group took over and it was re-named Cannon. Taken over by ABC again in a management buy out in the late-1990’s, it was again re-named ABC.

Odeon Theatres took over the chain in 2000, and they quickly closed the ABC on 10th December 2000. The 10-pin bowl had become a nightclub, and finally a casino. The building stood empty for several years, and was demolished in February 2008.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

terry
terry on April 10, 2015 at 2:07 pm

The ABC name first appeared in 1928 as opposed to Odeon which emerged two years later. Even when the cinemas retained their individual names (Ritz, Regal, Savoy, Forum etc), the company logo also appeared on the Fronts Of House, press advertising and day titles on the screen.

After initial ‘big spend’ conversions, ABC (by now under the EMI banner) embarked upon a massive programme of conversions of varying standards. Many were ‘drop wall’ whilst others were slightly more expensive and involved the bringing forward of the screen for the main auditorium. The latter conversions did not always look better than the cheaper ‘drop wall’ variety as it depended on how neat the so called wall was and how well or otherwise original features were preserved and integrated into the main auditorium.

The conversions which were staggeringly awful were those carried out after the acquisition of Star Bingo in 1975 when the new ‘Social Centre’ Division (very philanthropic sounding) got their grasping hands on impressive and large cinemas like Plymouth, Wigan, Aldershot and others where the circle would be crudely divided into two or more screens whilst the Bingo brigade acquired the ‘lions share’ of the building (the stalls) and, more often than not, the greater part of the entrance foyer.

Despite all this, the circuit still retained many high standard venues and the iconic ABC name which, from the mid 1950’s until 1968, was also seen by millions of home viewers at the beginning of very popular series such as ‘The Avengers’, ‘Armchair Theatre’, ‘Redcap’, ‘Mystery And Imagination’ etc plus the big live Variety Shows networked from ‘Europe’s Most Luxurious Theatre’, the ABC Blackpool ; this was in addition to being the continuity logo in those areas where the company had the weekend TV franchises.

The devious acquisition by the ‘Poor Man’s Essoldo’,Cannon, in 1986, which would take far too long to go into detail about here,but which most certainly should not have been allowed to happen had the Monopolies & Mergers Commission done its job properly,killed off the ABC name and any remaining vestiges of respectability.

When it re emerged in 1997 the tatty ‘ABC’ signs (a tiny triangular ABC logo above the word ‘cinema’) appeared on a ‘rag bag’ of cinemas as diverse as the very best city centre venues such as Edinburgh to shocking dives like Ealing (not the ‘proper’ ABC, the ex Forum)which had been part of Star, Classic etc – in short, places which the ‘proper’ ABC Company would either have not wanted in the first place or would have disposed of to the likes of Essoldo in the 1940’s and 1950’s……

As for product alignment, M-G-M was,in its heyday,larger than Columbia, Universal and United Artists combined and had the most prolific output of the Hollywood majors. Warner Bros were also one of ‘The Big Five’. ABPC did not have as large an output as Rank, but the major films they did produce were very profitable. It must be considered also that whilst Paramount & Universal Pictures did not appear on ABC screens until after disagreements with Rank, their association with the former was longer lasting than with Rank as far as alignment was concerned.

To conclude, and to imagine a hypothetical situation, had venture capitalists been around many decades ago and acquired the Odeon and ABC circuits (one has to imagine the absence of a body such as the then M & M Commission – not that it was of any use in 1986 with the Cannon debacle), it would have been highly debatable as to which name would have been retained had a choice had to be made.

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on April 10, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Well said Terry….

terry
terry on April 10, 2015 at 2:18 pm

I believe that the film which Paramount did not want to have released on the ‘National Circuit’ was ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ – which did very nicely, thank you………

Ambak
Ambak on April 24, 2015 at 5:13 am

This debate may be of interest (to some), but it doesn’t have much to do with the poor old ABC Hanley! Actually, the film that led to the Rank/Paramount rift was a now forgotten Dean Martin/Shirley MacLaine comedy called All In a Night’s Work, which went out on the ABC circuit in June 1961, Breakfast At Tiffanys was not until November. MGM may have had a prolific output in it’s heyday, but like most Hollywood studios, it’s heyday was long gone by the late fifties. This didn’t stop MGM doing a deal with Rank in 1958 to give half of it’s output to the Rank circuits, which led to such plums as Hitchcock’s North By Northwest getting an Odeon release. They were even happy for some films to go out on the National circuit, such as the Doris Day/David Niven starrer Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and George Pal’s The Time Machine. It was the refusal of a National release for the awful remake of Cimarron in early 1961 which led to MGM going back to ABC for all their releases. Along with Paramount’s switch a few months later this more or less killed the National release.

The question of branding is problematical. ABC began rebranding it’s circuit as simple ABCs in the late fifties but it took years to complete the process. As for the television business, I doubt that many associated the two and as far as logos goes, the ITA specifically forbade ABC from using the cinema style logo for the TV station. Rank did not consider “Odeon” to be a “brand” as the Rank circuit included Odeons, Gaumonts and a few other non standard names, the only element of branding was that all cinemas displayed Rank’s gongman. It wasn’t until the mid eighties that a new MD, Jim Whittell, became obsessed with “the brand” and renamed all the remaining non Odeons, dispensed with the gongman and even had the company renamed from Rank Theatres Ltd. to Odeon Cinemas Ltd. There could hardly be brand loyalty in the cinema business as long as distributor alignments and barring dictated which cinema you had to go to to see a particular film, and this practice continued until the advent of multiplexes.

When I joined Rank in the 1970s, the prevailing attitude among managers was that we were a cut above ABC. To some extent this was a result of basking in the reflected glory of prestige West End operations, which ABC could not match, and many provincial cities (such as Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle), where ABC were in a markedly inferior position to Rank. The idea that anyone acquiring both circuits would have adopted the ABC name is highly unlikely, would you rename the Odeon Leicester Square the “ABC Leicester Square”?

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on April 24, 2015 at 6:04 am

Hmm. Point 1. I do agree with using Odeon as a Brand. But I disagree. Ref Birmingham. ABC had more Cinemas in the Birmingham area. then Rank.. The ABC Forum New Street where I was based for a short period. Took more money then the Odeon new street. The Gaumont after “The sound of Music became a white elephant. Odeon Queensway did not turn in a Net profit for years before closure. My Cinema "The Capitol Cinema” did better business then Rank did from the 3 sites. They tried buying us out in fact… As I have said previously as my family had financial interests in both Rank ABC and the Clifton circuit I have studied the balance sheets..

terry
terry on April 24, 2015 at 3:02 pm

This debate happened to arise in the comments section of ABC Hanley and thus here it has remained.

Re MGM, the alternate circuit release pattern commenced with Hitchcock’s ‘North By North West’ in 1959 following a period of estrangement precipitated by the film ‘Gigi’ which ABC refused to present on a roadshow basis.

It is well known that Paramount Theatres were first offered to ABC but that the latter declined first refusal hence Rank’s more presitigious City Centre presence in those locations – that is not to say, however, that ABC’s outlets were any less popular- indeed, the Haymarket Newcastle’s box office receipts exceeded those of the Odeon for many years.

The ABC TV logo was similar to that of its cinema circuit whilst not being identical and everyone I knew in the North East associated it with local ABC Theatres, particularly the ABC Globe, Stockton (happily undergoing restoration) where, over the years, millions of people went to see first class live presentations from The Royal Ballet and English National Opera to pantomime and One Night Stands.

ABC were also represented in many locations where there was neither an Odeon nor a Gaumont including the University Cities of Oxford and Cambridge………

As I understand it, the debate was about Odeon and ABC as ‘brands’ as opposed to Rank or EMI and the like and there is no question that Cinven’s decision to adopt ‘Odeon’ was the correct one at the time.

In any event, the ‘points scoring’ which seems to have reared its ugly head is rather futile as we are all supposed to be friends here – or so I understood. The circuits as we remember them have all but disappeared and even the remaining Odeon cinemas have lost their charm and atmosphere as a result of further subdivision and austerity measures. Only the Odeon Leicester Square uses tabs nowadays and then only with 2D presentations and it is questionable for how much longer.

Some of my best friends were Rank Managers and,for all the ‘cut above’ attitude alluded to, our pay and conditions were superior to those of our Rank/Odeon opposite numbers. My dear deceased friend at Odeon Sunderland was on a thousand pounds a year less than I was on at ABC South Shields (a much less important location) back in 1980 and the poor chap’s pension was derisory when he was finally in receipt of it.

Fortunately for Rank and ABC,however,he, like most of us, was not in the industry primarily for the money but because of his love of it and there was a cooperation and camaraderie between Odeon and ABC Managers which co existed alongside a friendly rivarly which, I dare say, does not exist now – nor will ever do again.

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on April 25, 2015 at 2:32 am

@ Terry I agree in every respect. of your comments.

Mike_Blakemore
Mike_Blakemore on April 25, 2015 at 2:42 am

I have been reminded of the Inspection we had to do at night after closure of this Theatre, This had to be done by two people and was strictly done in an order. The boiler house. even with one person walking between the House and Screen Tabs.. while the other walked behind the screen tabs. Even the Exits locks where checked again.. (The time period for me doing this was 1969)

goodshow
goodshow on April 25, 2015 at 11:52 pm

Local History feature relating to the post-cinema usage here

http://www.thepotteries.org/entertainment/hanley_ABC.htm

goodshow
goodshow on April 26, 2015 at 1:49 am

Great memory of the Cine-Bowl during its years of magnificent presentations

http://www.learnaboutmovieposters.com/posters/db/poster.asp?pid=21861

To qualify for a Sunday 6th June, the year will be 1965,not quite the premiere run but nevertheless among those fabulous cinema-going years.

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