76 Foregate Street,
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Architects: William Riddell Glen
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Regal Cinema, ABC
Chester’s last super cinema the Regal Cinema, built on Foregate Street on the corner of Love Street, opened on Saturday 30th October 1937. The screening was to an invited audience only. The opening attraction was “Slave Ship” starring Warner Baxter and from the Monday a second feature was added “Turn Off the Moon” starring Charles Ruggles. The 1,973-capacity cinema had 1,196 seats in the stalls and 777 in the circle. It was designed by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) in-house architect Willam R. Glen. The Regal Cinema was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/6Rank organ, played in the opening week by Wilfred Southworth. For many years after, Norman Shann and Joseph Storer were the regular organists.
The projection room was equipped with Ross and Western Electric Mirrorphonic sound. Later, Westar was installed, followed by Philips FP20s. The Regal Cinema was equipped for 3D screenings, and on the 10th August 1953 “House of Wax” was played. In 1959, the name Regal was dropped, and it became ABC. In the early days Ardente deaf aid equipment was a feature. This was used in many cinemas.
In the 1960’s the ABC began to sell microwaved food. The kitchen was situated in the foyer area and was called the Gingham Kitchen. During the 1950’s and 1960’s many pop artistes appeared live - the screen flown for this purpose. Projectionist from day one in 1937 was Hughie Jones. His son and daughter also worked at the theatre. The Compton organ was in use until the mid-1960’s when it was removed from the building following an incident when a member of a pop group performing on the stage stepped forward onto the glass surround of the organ console which was covered in black cloth and smashed glass panels on the console, the performer suffered a badly gashed leg. In 1971 the instrument was shipped to Australia where it was eventually installed in the Majestic Theatre, Pomona, Queensland and opened there on 6th July 2019.
EMI bought ABC in 1969, and on May 29, 1980, the company turned the cinema into two cinemas, situated in the balcony area with seating for 470 and 252. An EMI Bingo Club occupied the former stalls seating area. Later, Coral took over the bingo. Projection was now operated using a non-rewind (cake stand) system. In 1987, Cannon Group took the helm, closing it on 16th December 1990 with “Ghost” in screen one and “Exorcist 3” in screen two. The building remained closed for nearly five years, opening as a Brannigans nightclub on 6th October 1995.
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