ABC Kingston upon Thames
22-30 Richmond Road,
Kingston upon Thames,
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Architects: Robert Cromie
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Regal Cinema, Union Cinema
Located in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, in the west of Greater London. The Regal Cinema was built on an extended site of the Cinem Palace (1909-1931) which was demolished (it has its own page on Cinema Treasures). The Regal Cinema was built by the County Cinemas circuit in a lavish Art Deco style.
It opened on 15th February 1932 with Sydney Howard in “Splinters of the Navy” and Garry Marsh in “Keepers of Youth” plus Laurel & Hardy in “Our Wives”. The magnificent Wurlitzer 3Manual/12Rank organ (with grand piano) was opened by Reginald Foort. The other facilities included a large stage, many dressing rooms and a Cafe with a dance floor.
It was taken over by Union Cinemas in 1936 and the name was changed from Regal Cinema to Union Cinema in March 1937. Union Cinemas were about to be taken over by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) and when they did the take-over, ABC changed the name back to Regal Cinema in 1938.
Regular stage shows were held over the years and broadcasts and recordings of the Wurlitzer organ were numerous with famed organists Phil Park, Sydney Torch, H. Robinson Cleaver, Harold Ramsay, Dudley Savage and Joseph Seal.
In 1940 a German bomb did some damage to the cinema and the organ, but these were repaired.
It was re-named ABC from August 1961 and in October 1972 the Wurlitzer organ was removed to be installed in the Musical Museum, Brentford, Middlesex. The ABC closed as a cinema on 17th July 1976 with Jim Bacus in “Blondie” and Barry Evans in “Adventures of a Taxi Driver”.
It was converted into a Coral Bingo Club and from 1991 it operated as a Gala Bingo Club. The Gala Bingo Club was suddenly closed in around April 2010, and the building was boarded up, with all signage removed. When closed it was in excellent condition.
It was purchased by a local man, who said he had plans to convert the building into a nightclub. Without permission, he set about internal demolition of the building, removing the glass sky-light above the stage, which allowed rainwater onto the stage. Decorative plaster was removed from the side-walls of the auditorium and all plaster-work was removed from the underside of the circle, leaving exposed supporting steel beams. The rear wall of the stalls was removed. He has been prosecuted for the damage done to the Listed Grade II building, and at a court hearing he was found guilty to carrying out unauthorised work on a Listed building and fined £45,000 with £29,200 to pay in costs.
The now near derelict building has been purchased by a property company CNM Estates, who plan to convert the building into a gymnasium, retail use, office space and build apartments on top of the structure. By 2023 nothing has happened to make a start on those plans and the building stands vacant.
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