100 High Street,
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Architects: Robert Cromie
Firms: Howard & Unick
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Embassy Cinema, Cannon, MGM, Virgin
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.
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