ABC Cinema/Theatre, Blackpool.

ABC Blackpool

130-140 Church Street,

Blackpool, FY1 3PR


Owners:  Associated British Cinemas Ltd.

Architect:  C. J. Foster.

Rebuild Cost:  £347000.

General Manager at the opening:  Robert Parsons.

Co-Chief Projectionist / Lighting Engineer at opening:  Alan Ashton.

Co-Chief Projectionist / Sound Engineer at opening:  Brian Wall.

Seating Capacity:  1934.

Date Opened:  Friday 31st of May 1963.

Opened by:  The Mayor of Blackpool.

Opened as a 3 screen venue:  Thursday 30th April 1981.

Date Closed:  Thursday 13th July 2000.

Building demolished.



What was once described as “the jewel in the crown of the ABC cinema circuit” in the 1960s was the new ABC Theatre in Blackpool.

Blackpool’s Empire Opera House Theatre & Circus. c.1895.

In fact the theatre/cinema was formed inside the shell of the Empire Opera House and Circus that had opened on 4th July 1895, and then renamed Hippodrome five years later. The circus ring was removed and replaced with a raked floor in 1910 and it became a cine/variety theatre, seating 2,500.

Associated British Cinemas took control of the building in April 1929. The company had plans to rebuild the theatre in 1939, but the outbreak of WWII stopped all building work.

The Empire sign set in stone, with the ABC Hippodrome sign over the entrance. Photographed shortly before it closed in 1960.

ABC closed the Hippodrome in 1960. The company’s chief architect, C.J. Foster, was commissioned to design a large modern cinema within the walls of the former theatre. Only the outer walls of the Hippodrome were left standing which may suggest that there was a requirement to retain the original structure for one reason or another. 

When finished the new facade on Church Street resembled an office block. The curtain wall cladding of white and blue panels hid the ornate walls of the old Hippodrome from view. A large glazed window & similar sized illuminated Perspex read-o-graph panel were situated above the large box lit canopy that spanned the entrance doors.

The modernistic design of the auditorium was typical of new cinema builds of that era.

The blandness of the walls and plainness of the gold coloured soft furnishings were relieved somewhat by the ceilings that had hundreds of small individual lamps set in pale gold moulded panels concealing ventilation and sound. The stalls and deep single balcony accommodated 1934 patrons.

Measuring 64′ in width and a depth of 29′, the full working stage, complete with flying facilities, safety curtain, orchestra pit and boasting a revolving centre piece integral to the stage floor. The stage and auditorium lighting was controlled by a Strand console located in the projection suite.

The impressive projection room where the spotlights/limes were installed.



Click the above frame to view the Pathé News coverage of the opening day. 

With great fanfare across the circuit the opening was heavily advertised on all ABC screens across the UK.

The Mayor arrives by tram to officially open the building.

The ABC Theatre opened by the Mayor of Blackpool on Friday 31st May 1963 with Cliff Richard and the Shadows appearing on stage for a summer season show titled “Holiday Carnival”. The Beatles appeared in concert on July 7th & 14th 1963.

Click on the above frame to play the Beatles on stage at the ABC Blackpool. 

ABC Television broadcast their ‘Blackpool Night Out’ series from the theatre, which was wired up permanently for TV transmissions.

Projectionist, the late Derrick Moore, photographed behind the camera at the ABC Theatre, Blackpool. Derrick had transferred from Chester’s ABC to join the technical team.

A galaxy of stars appeared on stage, with the following summer seasons featuring major talent of that time, including Englebert Humperdink, Cilla Black, Morcambe & Wise and Frank Ifield who attracted huge audiences. In the out of season months the venue was used for live appearances, concerts and pantomimes with films being shown when stage work was unavailable.

As the business headed into the 1970s the theatre struggled to attract the audiences required for such a large site.

The final summer season starred John Inman in ‘Fancy Free’ in 1980. The company decided to end the stage shows and operate the building as a three screen cinema. The work on the alteration commenced in January of 1981.

On its re-opening day as a three screen cinema.

It re-opened on Thursday 30th April 1981, as ABC 1 (in the former circle) seated 728, ABC 2 & ABC 3 (in the former stalls area) seated 321 & 231.  The 1963 (original) proscenium, stage, safety curtain, orchestra pit, front stalls and dressing rooms all survive intact behind the auditoriums of 2 and 3, and were used for storage.

It continued as a cinema until closure on Thursday 13th July 2000. Two years later the building was gutted of all its cinema interiors to be transformed into a night club.

On demolition the right-hand side of the original façade of the EMPIRE Theatre is seen briefly for the final time.

A reminder of the original façade. Photographed after being re-branded as the Hippodrome.

The building was demolished in August 2015.