Fairworld Film Centre

Raby Road,
Hartlepool, TS24

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exterior in 1937

Located in West Hartlepool, Cleveland. Opened by Asociated British Cinemas(ABC) as the Forum Cinema on 27th February 1937. Seating was provided for 1,160 in the stalls and 772 in the circle.

It was re-named ABC in 1963, later becoming part of the EMI Group. It was taken over by an independent operator in February 1976 and was renamed Fairworld Film Centre. It was closed on 1st May 1983 and the building became derelict, being demolished in 1997.

Contributed by Oly Sproxton

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

jbn6773 on December 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Demolished in 1997, Morrisons Supermarket car park now occupies the site

JRG on October 26, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Rest assured the photographs listed are of the FORUM Hartlepool. I managed the cinema for the Fair World group from 1976. I suspect that the photographs listed were taken during the late 1930s Very few changes were made to the cinema over the years.

terry on April 1, 2015 at 1:58 pm

The photo at the top of the main page is definitely not of the ABC Forum proscenium and whilst I was never based at the theatre I did carry out managerial relief duties there for ABC in the 1970’s. The Front Of House and two foyer photos are certainly of the ABC Forum.

I shall ask Bill Mather,retired former CEO of Fairworld Cinemas, to look at the auditorium shot to give a second opinion.

wmr on April 11, 2015 at 2:32 am

twmr on April 9, 2015 at 10:25 am (remove) Further to “Terry” April 1st, I can also confirm that the auditorium to the stage area is NOT of our former Cinema. The proscenium was certainly much wider than this one and also at the top of the proscenium were vent grills for heating from the plenum system. The side splays owards the stage are also incorrect and the proscenium did not have curved top as shown. There had been an “Organ Chamber” built to the right of the proscenium and this cinema was obviously intended to have an organ which did not emanate. I have the original “House Book” of the Cinema from 1949 still and for readers interest the CinemaScope size was 33'6" wide by 17'9" in height. There were also 3 dimmer colours for the proscenium alcoves installed for opening in 1937, (which are missing from the photo supplied). When FairWorld took the Cinema in February 1976 I put a new screen in at a width of 36'6"x 17'9" and we could not have possibly a screen size of that by the photo shown purporting to be of ex: ABC Hartlepool. As an added piece of history of the cinema I also completely re-seated the Circle with seating purchased from Rank Equipment and also a new set of screen tabs, and I had a long play tower installed and sound system (transistorised) and was “Cinemacanica”. As an added piece of nostalgia I still have the plans drawn up by “Modernisation Ltd” of Batley,Yorkshire, who I engaged for all my cinemas of FairWorld as Director of Cinemas, for a 4screen operation. My intention was 3 screens in the stalls area, with the main number 1 screen being the original in the circle. I also had purchased (from a cinema operator in the Midlands), 70mm projectors which was intended to be added to the new Film Centre operation.Unfortunately due to the apathy of the cinemagoing public the FairWorld Directors in their wisdom(or lack of it), overuled me and common business sense prevailing at that time in 1983 when admissions were dropping so far, I was given a stark choice resuting in my decision to cease operations on May 1st 1983, when the last film shown was “The Beastmaster” which was ironically released by “EMI Film Distributors(the previous owners of course operating as “ABC Cinemas”).

I trust cinema buffs will appreciate this added information of what was a really well built cinema of that era of which I was so proud to have acquired from “EMI” on behalf of the FairWorld Cinema division of which is no more as indeed “FairWorld Ltd” is no more.

terry on October 11, 2015 at 4:19 pm

I have uploaded to the relevant section (well, almost) a photo of the ABC Cinema that never was. This was to have been the Comet Cinema but, owing to the outbreak of WW2 it was not fitted out. At the end of hostilities, ABC, for some unfathomable reason, did not commission its completion or opening and for most of its existence it was used as a warehouse.

It can be seen by the photo that it would have been a very fine cinema.

I relieved at the ABC Forum on a few occasions and in the top drawer of the Manager’s desk was a brown envelope duly endorsed “KEYS TO COMET CINEMA”…….

terry on October 16, 2015 at 6:33 am

I have added a note in the photos section which I hope that the appropriate person at CT will action if they would be so kind.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 16, 2015 at 6:49 am

Terry; The Comet Cinema, West Hartlepool was built as the Coronet Cinema, and the unfinished building was acquired by ABC in February 1942. It was requisitioned by the Ministry of Food for the duration of World War II and was called the Comet. These details are from Allen Eyles book “ABC, The First Name In Entertainment”.

terry on October 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Hi Ken. I have the book but it is many years since I actually read it and you are quite right; on page 63 it says :–

“ABC came unstuck when it acquired the Coronet Hartlepool in February 1942 which had nearly been completed. The company began work to finish its construction and started booking the films it would show in a few weeks' time. Existing cinema owners who were being deprived of these films protested to the Northern Branch of the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association that, unlike West Hartlepool (where ABC had its Forum), Hartlepool was badly depressed by the War and had enough cinemas already. Work was halted (it is not clear whether this was done voluntarily by ABC) and the building was requisitioned by the Ministry of Food for the duration of hostilities and named the Comet.”

How I overlooked this I am not sure but I can only ever recollect the Manager & Chief at the Forum refer to the place as the ‘Comet’ and that it was an “albatross around their necks” being key holders. The envelope in the top drawer of the Manager’s desk containing the keys also said ‘Comet’.

I do not suppose that all these decades later the mystery of why the Ministry of Food saw fit to rename the place ‘Comet’ and why, in turn, it was never actually completed will ever be solved……

The Manager I used to relieve had, in the early 1960’s, transferred from the Royalty Hull to take over the Forum from a very well respected ABC man called Vic Moss who transferred to the Savoy Birkenhead. I had to laugh when he told me the story about how he learned about the Comet/Coronet. Apparently, when the District Manager paid his first visit to see the new Manager at the Forum he asked “Have you seen our OTHER ABC Theatre yet, Mr Gillan?” and upon receiving a reply in the negative from the perplexed Albert Gillan, he said “Well, I’ll take you to see it!”

When they arrived at the Comet/Coronet they went inside and he said “Well, Mr Gillan, you’ll be pleased to learn that you will also be responsible for this as well as the Forum!”

I was tempted on occasions to go along to the abandoned building and have a look inside but I had been warned by Albert that the place smelt vile inside and, knowing my luck, I would probably have fallen through the floor or met some other grisly fate, so I did not bother……

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