ABC New Street

88 New Street,
Birmingham, B2 4HS

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ABC New Street

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Originally built as the Masonic Hall, it was screening films as early as 1896. It was converted into a full time cinema known as the Theatre de Luxe in July 1910. It was re-named Regent Cinema in 1922.

Taken over by the Associated British Cinemas(ABC) chain in late-1929. They employed their ‘in house’ architect W.R. Glen to design a modern cinema within the existing walls. Despite its very narrow entrance on New Street, it was a very grand cinema, with 501 seats in the stalls, 348 in the circle, and 410 in the upper circle. Having an upper circle was very unusual in cinema design in the United Kingdom. The upper circle was at a very steep angle. The Forum Cinema was opened on 1st November 1930 with Edna Best in “Loose Ends” and Leslie Fuller in “Kiss Me Sergeant”. It was equipped with a Compton 2Manual/8Ranks theatre organ, with its console on the stage at the right hand side. The organ was removed from the building in 1955. The cinema held many midnight matinee performances.

The Forum Cinema was re-named ABC in 1961. It was closed on 9th April 1983 with “ET”. The foyer was converted into an amusement arcade, and part of the stalls became retail use. The upper parts of the building were abandoned. The amusement arcade was closed in 2013, and in February 2016 plans were proposed to convert the space into a restaurant. The exterior of the building is Grade II Listed.

Contributed by derek l.hunt

Recent comments (view all 40 comments)

Dennis Thomas
Dennis Thomas on May 3, 2015 at 6:10 am

To ‘harryrig’ thank you for the projection box picture,very interesting,certainly had changed since I last worked there in 1969. Looks like they moved to a tower system before it closed then?.

YogaPrincess on August 10, 2015 at 9:22 am

Hi all! I am the Grand Daughter of Lilian Iles who worked at the Forum as an Usherette 1951 or 1952 for about 8 months, who also served ice creams if they were short staffed. She worked at new street once too but fell asleep!She recalls a girl she worked with, she thinks her name was Ann

jimcleary on November 1, 2015 at 5:30 pm

My parent’s, Jim Cleary and Rose Wareing, met while working at the Forum in the late 1950’s. They knew George Mottram who mom tells me they called Chief. They also knew Larry French and mom recalls a man named Ray Malin. Mr Simmons was the manager. She remembers the cinema showing Carry On Constable and The Journey. She was there when they had the first booking picture for 3 months which was Gigi. She was happy there and remembers Chief with affection. I met George’s grandson, Carla’s brother, in the 1970’s and remember talking about his grandpa and my parents working together.

Dennis Thomas
Dennis Thomas on November 2, 2015 at 5:27 am

Hello Jim, Chief of course refers to chief projectionist,there was 2nd and 3rd projectionist as well. I wonder what jobs did your parents do there?,I worked there from the end of 64 to the late 69 as a projectionist. George the ‘chief’ retired while I was there.

jimcleary on November 7, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Hi Dennis. My mom was an usherette but I don’t know if my dad was a 2nd or 3rd projectionist. Dad left the Forum around the time you started in 1964. Mom left 1n 1960, she remembers them as happy times. I read, on previous comments of yours, that you met your wife at the Forum.

Alexander_Simmons on January 8, 2016 at 6:10 am

Alex Simmons Mike Blakemore do you remember in the office you shared with Jonny Simmons the photos of the film stars?

Mike_Blakemore on January 8, 2016 at 10:30 am

Very Vaguely after all these years .. After all I had to cope with being in the office with Joan Cooks as well :o) I have a feeling we have met.. Jonny Simmons was a Top class manager and had style of the old school

Alexander_Simmons on January 9, 2016 at 4:35 am

Thank you Mike. I anybody knows about the photos that would be great. Part of the cinemas history. .uk THANKS!

Dennis Thomas
Dennis Thomas on March 27, 2016 at 5:33 am

Hello Jimcleary Sorry I only just saw your post,yes I remember your dad,a Irish chap?,I can still see him in my mind after all the time. He did indeed leave in late 64 early 65,and I think he was the 3rd projectionist then?. I did meet my wife there,we were married for 24 years had two kids,but sadly are no longer together. I started in late November 64 as a 15 year old so just had time to get to know your dad a little. I am a pensioner now. :) :(

jimcleary on April 10, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Yes Dennis, my dad was Irish. He was in his 30’s when he worked at the Forum. He left to work at Aston University in the visual aids department where he stayed until his death in 1971. He worked in a few cinemas in his time. I too remember the Becon cinema on Scott Arms. I loved going there, it was beautiful, a crime to knock it down.

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