ABC Gaiety Cinema

Coleshill Street,
Birmingham, B4

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ABC Gaiety Cinema

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The Gaiety Cinema managed to open by the skin of its teeth due to the roof being on when World War II began in September 1939. This was one of the last pre-war ABC’s to be opened, also the only William Glen designed ABC to be built from the ground up at that time. Work had to stop on the remainder of the ABC’s that were under construction.

The ABC Gaiety Cinema was opened on 17th December 1939 with Robert Taylor in “Lucky Night” and Otto Kruger in “Black Eyes”. There was a Pathe Gazette, but I understand there was no formal opening ceremony. It was equipped with Ross GC picture heads and RCA sound.

In the middle 1960’s it had Philips DP75 70/35mm projectors, 6 track Philips Magnetic sound installed, and the new larger screen and a refurbishment. In around 18 months a change of policy happened. The 70mm kit and extra rectifiers where removed and used on other sites.

This was one of the theatres I used to relief the manager for his time off, until the theatre closed in November 1969. The last film was Beryl Reid in “The Killing of Sister George”. The closing manager was Arnold Lewis. The ABC Gaiety Cinema was demolished and the site grassed over by the University.

Previously to the Gaiety Cinema being built, the site started as the Rodney Inn, then in 1846 a concert hall was added to the rear and became Holders Music Hall. In 1857, the hall was extended to hold 2,000 seats. Around 1899 it started to show the occasional film until 1920 becoming a full-time cinema, known as the Gaiety Picture House. In 1936 an explosion wrecked the projection box so much it had to be rebuilt. Just before the explosion a projectionist was sacked and was allowed back into the projection box to collect his belongings unsupervised, and he put a lit cigarette into a film hopper. (This is a Fact and not hear-say)

Contributed by Mike Blakemore
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