ABC Coleshill Street
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Located a short distance to the northeast of the main city centre in the Aston district. 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 Associated British Cinemas to be opened, as work had to stop on the remainder of the ABC’s that were under construction (the Savoy Cinema, Holloway, London opened on 5th February 1940). 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 May 1963 it was closed for modernisation, and it re-opened on 4th August 1963 as the ABC Coleshill Street. In October 1964 it was closed to be equipped for 70mm when it had Philips DP70 70/35mm projectors, 6 track Philips Magnetic sound installed, and the new larger screen. It reopened 22nd October 1964 with Richard Widmark in “Cheyenne Autumn”, presented in 70mm. On 18th April 1965 the Midlands Premiere of “My Fair Lady” starring Audrey Hepburn was presented in 70mm. Soon after, 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 relieve the manager for his time off, until the ABC Coleshill Street closed on 29th November 1969. The last film was Beryl Reid in “The Killing of Sister George”. The closing manager was Arnold Lewis. The ABC Coleshill Street had a Compulsory Purchase Order placed on it and was demolished in 1970. The site was grassed over by the University of Aston.
Previous 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)
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