ABC Hanley

18 Broad Street,
Hanley, ST1 4EU

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Showing 23 comments

rivest266 on September 13, 2022 at 10:49 am

Grand opening ad posted.

Terry White
Terry White on April 12, 2018 at 4:03 am

It’s been a while since your post Doug but nice to see you are still interested in the “Trade”. Certainly great days at Hanley and I will always remember the theatre, picture and sound quality and of course you guys in the “pictures”. Thanks again for posting and sorry for the delay in acknowledging.

Terry White

Kidderminster 12th April 2018

terry on January 10, 2017 at 4:13 am

This is home cinema as it should be:–

Apparently, many items from the ABC are incorporated within.

dougroy on May 6, 2015 at 3:25 am

I came across this site by chance, it was a suprise to find the ABC Hanley seeing photos of myself and the rest of the projection staff. It brings back happy memories of this great cinema.From Doug Blakemore.

goodshow on April 26, 2015 at 1:49 am

Great memory of the Cine-Bowl during its years of magnificent presentations

To qualify for a Sunday 6th June, the year will be 1965,not quite the premiere run but nevertheless among those fabulous cinema-going years.

goodshow on April 25, 2015 at 11:52 pm

Local History feature relating to the post-cinema usage here

Mike_Blakemore on April 25, 2015 at 2:42 am

I have been reminded of the Inspection we had to do at night after closure of this Theatre, This had to be done by two people and was strictly done in an order. The boiler house. even with one person walking between the House and Screen Tabs.. while the other walked behind the screen tabs. Even the Exits locks where checked again.. (The time period for me doing this was 1969)

Mike_Blakemore on April 25, 2015 at 2:32 am

@ Terry I agree in every respect. of your comments.

terry on April 24, 2015 at 3:02 pm

This debate happened to arise in the comments section of ABC Hanley and thus here it has remained.

Re MGM, the alternate circuit release pattern commenced with Hitchcock’s ‘North By North West’ in 1959 following a period of estrangement precipitated by the film ‘Gigi’ which ABC refused to present on a roadshow basis.

It is well known that Paramount Theatres were first offered to ABC but that the latter declined first refusal hence Rank’s more presitigious City Centre presence in those locations – that is not to say, however, that ABC’s outlets were any less popular- indeed, the Haymarket Newcastle’s box office receipts exceeded those of the Odeon for many years.

The ABC TV logo was similar to that of its cinema circuit whilst not being identical and everyone I knew in the North East associated it with local ABC Theatres, particularly the ABC Globe, Stockton (happily undergoing restoration) where, over the years, millions of people went to see first class live presentations from The Royal Ballet and English National Opera to pantomime and One Night Stands.

ABC were also represented in many locations where there was neither an Odeon nor a Gaumont including the University Cities of Oxford and Cambridge………

As I understand it, the debate was about Odeon and ABC as ‘brands’ as opposed to Rank or EMI and the like and there is no question that Cinven’s decision to adopt ‘Odeon’ was the correct one at the time.

In any event, the ‘points scoring’ which seems to have reared its ugly head is rather futile as we are all supposed to be friends here – or so I understood. The circuits as we remember them have all but disappeared and even the remaining Odeon cinemas have lost their charm and atmosphere as a result of further subdivision and austerity measures. Only the Odeon Leicester Square uses tabs nowadays and then only with 2D presentations and it is questionable for how much longer.

Some of my best friends were Rank Managers and,for all the ‘cut above’ attitude alluded to, our pay and conditions were superior to those of our Rank/Odeon opposite numbers. My dear deceased friend at Odeon Sunderland was on a thousand pounds a year less than I was on at ABC South Shields (a much less important location) back in 1980 and the poor chap’s pension was derisory when he was finally in receipt of it.

Fortunately for Rank and ABC,however,he, like most of us, was not in the industry primarily for the money but because of his love of it and there was a cooperation and camaraderie between Odeon and ABC Managers which co existed alongside a friendly rivarly which, I dare say, does not exist now – nor will ever do again.

Mike_Blakemore on April 24, 2015 at 6:04 am

Hmm. Point 1. I do agree with using Odeon as a Brand. But I disagree. Ref Birmingham. ABC had more Cinemas in the Birmingham area. then Rank.. The ABC Forum New Street where I was based for a short period. Took more money then the Odeon new street. The Gaumont after “The sound of Music became a white elephant. Odeon Queensway did not turn in a Net profit for years before closure. My Cinema "The Capitol Cinema” did better business then Rank did from the 3 sites. They tried buying us out in fact… As I have said previously as my family had financial interests in both Rank ABC and the Clifton circuit I have studied the balance sheets..

Alan Baker
Alan Baker on April 24, 2015 at 5:13 am

This debate may be of interest (to some), but it doesn’t have much to do with the poor old ABC Hanley! Actually, the film that led to the Rank/Paramount rift was a now forgotten Dean Martin/Shirley MacLaine comedy called All In a Night’s Work, which went out on the ABC circuit in June 1961, Breakfast At Tiffanys was not until November. MGM may have had a prolific output in it’s heyday, but like most Hollywood studios, it’s heyday was long gone by the late fifties. This didn’t stop MGM doing a deal with Rank in 1958 to give half of it’s output to the Rank circuits, which led to such plums as Hitchcock’s North By Northwest getting an Odeon release. They were even happy for some films to go out on the National circuit, such as the Doris Day/David Niven starrer Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and George Pal’s The Time Machine. It was the refusal of a National release for the awful remake of Cimarron in early 1961 which led to MGM going back to ABC for all their releases. Along with Paramount’s switch a few months later this more or less killed the National release.

The question of branding is problematical. ABC began rebranding it’s circuit as simple ABCs in the late fifties but it took years to complete the process. As for the television business, I doubt that many associated the two and as far as logos goes, the ITA specifically forbade ABC from using the cinema style logo for the TV station. Rank did not consider “Odeon” to be a “brand” as the Rank circuit included Odeons, Gaumonts and a few other non standard names, the only element of branding was that all cinemas displayed Rank’s gongman. It wasn’t until the mid eighties that a new MD, Jim Whittell, became obsessed with “the brand” and renamed all the remaining non Odeons, dispensed with the gongman and even had the company renamed from Rank Theatres Ltd. to Odeon Cinemas Ltd. There could hardly be brand loyalty in the cinema business as long as distributor alignments and barring dictated which cinema you had to go to to see a particular film, and this practice continued until the advent of multiplexes.

When I joined Rank in the 1970s, the prevailing attitude among managers was that we were a cut above ABC. To some extent this was a result of basking in the reflected glory of prestige West End operations, which ABC could not match, and many provincial cities (such as Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle), where ABC were in a markedly inferior position to Rank. The idea that anyone acquiring both circuits would have adopted the ABC name is highly unlikely, would you rename the Odeon Leicester Square the “ABC Leicester Square”?

terry on April 10, 2015 at 2:18 pm

I believe that the film which Paramount did not want to have released on the ‘National Circuit’ was ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ – which did very nicely, thank you………

Mike_Blakemore on April 10, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Well said Terry….

terry on April 10, 2015 at 2:07 pm

The ABC name first appeared in 1928 as opposed to Odeon which emerged two years later. Even when the cinemas retained their individual names (Ritz, Regal, Savoy, Forum etc), the company logo also appeared on the Fronts Of House, press advertising and day titles on the screen.

After initial ‘big spend’ conversions, ABC (by now under the EMI banner) embarked upon a massive programme of conversions of varying standards. Many were ‘drop wall’ whilst others were slightly more expensive and involved the bringing forward of the screen for the main auditorium. The latter conversions did not always look better than the cheaper ‘drop wall’ variety as it depended on how neat the so called wall was and how well or otherwise original features were preserved and integrated into the main auditorium.

The conversions which were staggeringly awful were those carried out after the acquisition of Star Bingo in 1975 when the new ‘Social Centre’ Division (very philanthropic sounding) got their grasping hands on impressive and large cinemas like Plymouth, Wigan, Aldershot and others where the circle would be crudely divided into two or more screens whilst the Bingo brigade acquired the ‘lions share’ of the building (the stalls) and, more often than not, the greater part of the entrance foyer.

Despite all this, the circuit still retained many high standard venues and the iconic ABC name which, from the mid 1950’s until 1968, was also seen by millions of home viewers at the beginning of very popular series such as ‘The Avengers’, ‘Armchair Theatre’, ‘Redcap’, ‘Mystery And Imagination’ etc plus the big live Variety Shows networked from ‘Europe’s Most Luxurious Theatre’, the ABC Blackpool ; this was in addition to being the continuity logo in those areas where the company had the weekend TV franchises.

The devious acquisition by the ‘Poor Man’s Essoldo’,Cannon, in 1986, which would take far too long to go into detail about here,but which most certainly should not have been allowed to happen had the Monopolies & Mergers Commission done its job properly,killed off the ABC name and any remaining vestiges of respectability.

When it re emerged in 1997 the tatty ‘ABC’ signs (a tiny triangular ABC logo above the word ‘cinema’) appeared on a ‘rag bag’ of cinemas as diverse as the very best city centre venues such as Edinburgh to shocking dives like Ealing (not the ‘proper’ ABC, the ex Forum)which had been part of Star, Classic etc – in short, places which the ‘proper’ ABC Company would either have not wanted in the first place or would have disposed of to the likes of Essoldo in the 1940’s and 1950’s……

As for product alignment, M-G-M was,in its heyday,larger than Columbia, Universal and United Artists combined and had the most prolific output of the Hollywood majors. Warner Bros were also one of ‘The Big Five’. ABPC did not have as large an output as Rank, but the major films they did produce were very profitable. It must be considered also that whilst Paramount & Universal Pictures did not appear on ABC screens until after disagreements with Rank, their association with the former was longer lasting than with Rank as far as alignment was concerned.

To conclude, and to imagine a hypothetical situation, had venture capitalists been around many decades ago and acquired the Odeon and ABC circuits (one has to imagine the absence of a body such as the then M & M Commission – not that it was of any use in 1986 with the Cannon debacle), it would have been highly debatable as to which name would have been retained had a choice had to be made.

Mike_Blakemore on April 10, 2015 at 8:40 am

Hmm. Point 1. My expression was of old ABC which I know made more profit from the balance sheets.. From the EMI take over was its downfall. Odeon has been only under Rank control proper from 1948 ish After the share rights issue of 1947. See Odeon Properties ltd., The Clifton Sydicate of Birmingham owned more of Odeon then Rank did and controled. There was also 7 Odeons, Rank only had 200 share in each of them. We in effect loaned Rank to buy us out of our interests.. All of the built Odeons had their own set shareholders and Rank had just had 200 shares in each built Odeon. they bought off Oscar Deutch’s wife, Lilly. Associaited British Cinemas like Odeon was an amalgam of compainies. The Clfton Syndicate also was strong in ABC as well and helped to stop Warner Bros totaly taking over ABC My Family was involved in the share holding of ABC when it merged with our 4 theatres, a number of Odeons, Clifton syndicate cinemas plus Howard and Wyndam Ltd.,. Also Most of what has been written about Odeon’s history is a Myth

Alan Baker
Alan Baker on April 10, 2015 at 8:06 am

In the post war years the distributor alignments were heavily in Rank’s favour. They had two circuits (Odeon and Gaumont until 1959, Rank and National 1959-61) and had the lions share of the product. Rank had 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, Columbia, United Artists, Disney and their own productions. ABC had Warner, MGM and their own ABPC productions. Between 1954 and 1958 Fox withdrew their product from the Rank circuits in a dispute over CinemaScope and set up their own fourth circuit using Essoldo, Granada and independents. In 1961 Paramount refused to have one of their films put out on the National release and switched all future releases to ABC. In 1972 Universal’s joint distribution operation with Paramount, Cinema International Corporation, began operating in the UK and Universal films switched to ABC. To describe ABC as more profitable than Rank is absurd. ABC spent fortunes on some of their multi screen conversions, which usually meant extended periods of closure (and thus lost revenue), while the declining market meant that they never saw a return on the investment which is why EMI switched to the cheaper drop wall system that had always been favoured by Rank. As for ABC as a brand, well, it hadn’t even been a brand until the early sixties, prior to which ABC cinemas operated under their original names (Regal, Ritz, Savoy etc.). The brand disappeared entirely during the Cannon years and when it reappeared it was as the discarded rump of the old circuit. In contrast, Odeon had a continuous presence in the market since the thirties (most of it under just one owner, unlike ABC), so it was not surprising that Cinven regarded it as the stronger.

Mike_Blakemore on March 13, 2015 at 4:17 am

Hmm. Real ABC was a far more a successful company Profit wise then Rank Cinemas They had the better release with Warner.. MGM.. Paramount.. Then Rank had Fox and Universal with Disney at Holiday times.. The Quality of Old ABC’s New builds and refurbishments where of a very high standards compared with some of the EMI Moore-bird wrecking’s that where carried out. ABC used Modernisation Ltd., for most of the new build interiors

terry on March 12, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Cinven, the venture capitalists who backed the reformed ABC Chain, subsequently acquired Odeon following Rank’s disposal of that circuit (in rather the same manner in which Thorn-EMI parted with ABC) and, upon the advice of Industry Experts, opted to retain the ‘Odeon’ brand as it was superior.

Once upon a time that would have been very debatable especially in the days when ABC as a brand was as well known for TV as for cinemas and film production. However, by the time of the Cinven strategy, the ABC name was very much tarnished to say the least………

terry on March 12, 2015 at 5:56 pm

EMI took over in 1969, long before tripling and even longer before the Cannon ‘back door’ take over of the circuit.

Mike_Blakemore on September 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Odeon Chain Did not take over ABC 2000… ABC took over Odeon.. ABC then renamed Cinemas Odeon as it was a better branding….

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on February 8, 2011 at 10:10 am

The disused ABC in August 2006:
Foyer & bar area at opening in August 1963:
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Auditorium at its opening in August 1963:
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Same day, with the cleaners lights on:
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Demolition begins at the end of August 2007:
Demolition completed in February 2008:
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