ABC Crawley

100 High Street,
Crawley, RH10 1BZ

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Associated British Cinemas Ltd., Cannon Cinemas, MGM Theatres, Shipman & King Cinemas Ltd., Virgin Cinemas

Architects: Robert Cromie

Firms: Howard & Unick

Styles: Art Deco

Previous Names: Embassy Cinema, Cannon, MGM, Virgin

Nearby Theaters

ABC Crawley

In 1937 the Albany Temperance Hotel was demolished to make way for the Embassy Cinema which opened on Monday 1st August 1938 at 8pm. Chairman of Crawley Council, Alderman DR S.P. Matthews headed the opening ceremony, with Ralph Lynn, ‘a celebrated British Screen and Stage Star’, making a personal appearance and saying a few words. The main feature of the night was a George Formby film “Keep Fit”, with “Bulldog Drummond Comes Back” starring John Barrymore and John Howard, and “Self Control” a Walt Disney ‘Silly Symphony’ in Colour warming up the screens.

The Embassy Cinema was a pleasing modern cinema which was the last to be opened by the Shipman & King Circuit, before World War II. Designed by leading cinema architect, Robert Cromie, with 1,014-seats (covered in cherry red material with grey arm rests), it was not as streamlined and striking as some of the S & K circuits cinemas. The auditorium was described at the time as having ‘what might be called a simplified classical style’.

On 15th December 1979, the Embassy Cinema closed for 3 months to be divided into 3 smaller cinemas at a cost of £250,000. The Embassy Cinema re-opened on 20th March 1980 with a full house, turning away well over 100 would-be patrons. It now seated 331 in Screen One, 234 in Screen Two and 118 in Screen Three. In 1985 it was remodeled internally to the plans of architectural firm Howard & Unick, reopening on 7th December 1985. It was decided to rename the cinema to ABC and re-introduce the old triangle logo by which the circuit had been known in the 1960’s.

In 1986 the Cannon Group took over the circuit and insensitively applied the name Cannon to every cinema, including Crawley on 28th November 1986.

Then the Cannon name was retired in favour of a new set of 3 initials, those of MGM, with effect from 18th June 1993. These prestigious letters, accompanied by a roaring lion, having become available when the Cannon Circuit fell under the same ownership as the American Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer company. The MGM name was only applied to the best and most profitable cinemas (others remained as Cannon), so the Crawley cinema was clearly identified as a valuable one.

In a further change of ownership, the MGM chain became part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Cinemas chain in July 1995 but when Virgin decided to concentrate on its modern multiplexes (which ironically caused the cinema to shut due to the opening of the 13-screen cinema on the leisure park) the Crawley cinema was sold to ABC Cinemas on 2nd May 1996. The ABC Cinema closed on 25th November 1999 with Bruce Willis in “The Sixth Sense”, Matthew McConhaughey in “Edtv” and Brad Pitt in “Fight Club”.

In January 2000 and work began on transforming the 3 screen cinema into a 660 capacity venue. Bar Med, part of the Town & Country pub chain began trading in May 2000, and closed in 2012. The building was demolished in 2013 and a Turtle Bay Caribbean restaurant and a Morrison’s supermarket now stands on the site.

Contributed by Jonathan Logan

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on June 15, 2010 at 3:32 pm

The Embassy Cinema, photographed in around 1947:
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Colour photograph from the early 1970’s:
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Closed for conversion to a triple screen in 1979:
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The Embassy Cinema as a triple screen in 1979:
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No 1 screen in the former stalls:
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jonno21 on June 17, 2010 at 6:26 am

Fantastic pictures! Do you have any more? I have searched in vain for photos like these! I am particularly interested to find out what the interior was like in its original form and after it was converted. I was only 11 years old when this cinema shut, so my memories of what it was like are faded; I always preferred it to the Cineworld complex though.
Unfortunately several recent trips to Bar Med have not exactly helped to trigger my memories; I have been unable to recognise any features from when it was a cinema.

Ian on June 17, 2010 at 11:20 am

Another photo when it was the Cannon Cinema here:–

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 25, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Do all the 007’s have world premiers in Great Britian,I remember, I think,“THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS” had one with Lady Di and Prince Charles attending.I saw the picture somewhere in a 007 book.Thanks Ian. I love 007.

shadow15 on October 13, 2011 at 8:40 am

Are there any pictures of the interior available? I would love to have a look around the parts of the building which are no longer open to the public.

shadow15 on September 17, 2012 at 10:36 am

Bar Med has now closed for redevelopment. It looks like the Embassy’s days are numbered, sadly :(

AndreasP on October 17, 2017 at 3:14 am

According to Wikipedia, the cinema has since been demolished.

Buffer on August 8, 2019 at 6:50 am

The Embassy re-opened on Saturday Dec 7th, 1985 as the ABC, with a completely new look designed by Howard and Unick. Designer Nerissa Martin specially made the uniforms, Ray Quilter, chief engineer for ABC completely gutted the interior inside 2 weeks, providing new high backed seating new carpets, new kiosks and new toilets with designer ceramics. Prices were unchanged!

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