ABC Plaza Cinema (Central Hall Picture House), Catford, LONDON.

ABC Plaza, (Central Hall Picture House), Catford

1 Bromley Road,

London, SE6 2TF


Original Owner:  James Watt.

Architects:  Edward Albert Stone in collaboration Norfolk and Pryor.

Building Contractor:  James Watt.

Original Seating Capacity:  1046.

Date Opened: Tuesday 23rd December 1913.

Re-branded Plaza Cinema:  Monday 21st November 1932.

Change of ownership:  Union Cinemas 1935.  Associated British Cinemas Ltd:  October 1937.

Re-Opening After Substantial Alterations & Rebranded as ABC:  Sunday 26th November 1961.

Architect:  Cecil Jack Foster, LRIBA.

Opened As A Twin Screen Cinema:  Wednesday 2nd December 1981.

Date Closed As A Cinema:  late 2001.

Extant.  Religious Venue. 



Local building contractor, James Watt, secured the site that was in a prominent position on Central Parade’s Sangley Road and Bromley Road in the southeast London district of Catford. He engaged architect Edward Albert Stone, in collaboration with the architectural practice of Norfolk and Pryor to design this, his second silent cinema, that was to be known as the Central Hall Picture House.

The white stone façade, featured an assortment of ornately framed oval, arched and rectangular windows, with four pilasters towering over the centrally placed entrance doors. However, it was the two turrets with domes supported by pilasters that were the most striking feature that drew the attention of passers-by.

Beyond the main doors was a small entrance lounge leading to the auditorium that seated 1046 seats on balcony and stalls levels. The ornate decoration was similar to what was to be found in Variety theatres of that era. Vertical strips of richly decorated plasterwork extended upwards from the stall’s dado at regular intervals, complemented by a similar design that ran along the complete front facing edge of the balcony. At ceiling level, a generously proportion frieze was positioned around the side and splay walls, continuing across the proscenium. Eighteen large panels bordered with deeply embossed plasterwork segmented the central expanse of the barrel-vaulted ceiling. Two curtained windows were placed just before the splay walls.

The Central Hall Picture House opened on Tuesday 23rd December 1913.

Entrance Foyer of the Plaza Cinema, Catford.


The name of the cinema was changed to the Plaza on Monday 21st November 1932. Soon after it was acquired by the Union Cinemas circuit during 1935.

Then the rapidly expanding Associated British Cinemas, owned by John Maxwell, took control of the cinema in October of 1937. The cinema then became the ABC Plaza, enjoying many years of successful trading being managed by this major circuit.

ABC Plaza Catford 1959


A more modern approach was made to the cinema internal design when ABCs chief architect, Cecil Jack Foster, LRIBA, produced plans that would make the cinema more appealing to audiences of the early 1960s. It closed on Saturday 27th May 1961 to enable substantial alterations that were to replace the original ornate features into sleek modern lines.

The sleek new look

Projection Room.

It re-opened as the ABC on Sunday 26th November 1961, boasting on the canopy that it was “South London’s New Luxury Cinema”. Its seating capacity now reduced to 925 seats.

Two decades later It was decided to make the building a twin-screen venue. It closed on Saturday 10th October 1981, to allow for the division to be constructed.

Opening of the twin screen ABC Catford.

The ABC opened as two separate screens on Wednesday 2nd December 1981. Formed in the stalls area, Screen One held 519 seats. Its first film was “Superman II” starring Christopher Reeve. In the 259 seat Screen 2, located in the former balcony, “Midnight Express” starring Brad Davis and “McVicker” starring Roger Daltrey was the first programme shown.

During 1986 the company was acquired by the Cannon Group, Inc. The cinema was re-branded with the company’s name.

The building finally closed as a cinema in late 2001, surprisingly with ABC signage on the frontage, thanks to a new company management buy-out of the branding of the original company that permitted them to use the famous logo.

The following year the Brazilian based Universal Church of the Kingdom of God purchased the building. However, following planning refusal and vigorous campaigns by locals to try and keep a cinema screen in the building, a Public Enquiry in 2005, ruled that the church could use the former stalls area, providing they let out the former circle as a cinema. In February 2006, planning permission was given to the applicants to commence their alterations. The church opened on the lower floor on Sunday 18th August 2007. The 200 seat ‘cinema’ in the former circle was advertised ‘To Let’. Two years later, no offers had been received. Eventually the two levels were occupied by the owners.

2023 photograph ©