Gloucester, GL1 1RP
Date opened: Monday 19th March 1956.
Date closed: Wednesday 12th December 1990.
Owners: John Maxwell/Associated British Cinemas Ltd.
Architects: William Riddell Glenn. FRIAS., W.R. Farrow and K. Smith, C J Foster.
Seating Capacity: 1468.
First film shown: “Now and Forever” starring Janette Scott.
Present use: Extant: JD Wetherspoon pub/restaurant.
Work commenced in earnest on the ABC Regal on a prominent site on St.Aldate Street in Gloucester during 1939. War clouds were gathering and Associated British Cinemas had commissioned their main architect, William Riddell Glen, to design what was to be the final cinema in this Cathedral City in that expansive period of cinema development. However, luck was not on their side and building work was halted when the Second World War started on 1st September.
Construction did not recommence until ten years after the war finished. Architect W.R. Farrow with his assistant, K. Smith, drew up modified plans of the cinema and building work re-started during 1955 when building work restrictions had been eased.
The appearance of the re-vamped designed cinema was to be sleek and modern, more in step with the 1950s. The facade was built in a semi classical design of Bath stone incorporating a slender plinth of Portland Stone perched upon high. The main entrance consisted of a “battery of armour plate-glass doors” that gave an unbroken view of the main entrance foyer from the street. This foyer space was large with sculptured ceilings, lighting, and wall treatments. Clean lines replaced the fussy ornate 1930s style of plaster work with a lozenge pattern on the ante-proscenium splay walls. The interior decoration and soft furnishing was under the supervision of G. Mc Farlane and P.Turner. A wide, uncluttered proscenium provided wall to wall house tabs (curtains). The material used for the proscenium curtaining was heavy oyster coloured velour, while lustrous satin in a mushroom tone was the choice for the screen curtains. High grade Wilton carpeting with a black and red design was used throughout.
The total capacity was 1468 seats, the stalls could accommodate 1006 customers with the balcony seating a further 462. All had a perfect view of the generously proportioned 25′ deep stage. The very latest in cinema and stage technical equipment of the time was lavished on this theatre including all the various screen formats including widescreen, CinemaScope, VistaVision and stereoscopic pictures. Westrex provided their latest sound equipment. The cinema was also being lined up for “On Stage”productions as well as movies.
The ABC Regal held a Gala Opening on 19th March 1956.
The first film shown was “Now and Forever” starring Janette Scott, a supporting feature was “Night Plane to Amsterdam”.
For the opening weeks, organist Hubert Selby played a Hammond electronic organ that was installed temporarily.
Within a month the first stage show took place. An engagement of six days from 16th April featured singer, David Whitfield. In 1958 architect, C J Foster, was commissioned to draw up plans to extend the building to include extra dressing rooms space. The Regal eventually had five large dressing rooms.
Over three decades artists such as Tommy Steele, Petula Clark, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Roy Orbison, the Four Tops, appeared “Live on Stage” at the Regal. The Beatles made their one and only appearance in Gloucester at the Regal on 18th March 1963. Annual pantomimes were also a regular feature at this busy venue.
The name above the building was shortened to just ABC during 1963 inline with the company’s re-branding across the UK. EMI bought Associated British Cinemas Picture Corporation (ABC) in 1969. Early in 1974 it was announced that the ABC was going to become a three screen venue, this move saw the stage events finish, and the final feature shown to the original single screen auditorium was “The Legend Of Frenchie King”.
The converted three screen complex was opened on 22nd July 1974 with screen one in the former balcony which had been extended forward holding 658 seats. The stalls area was divided into two separate cinemas, one seating 348 patrons and the other holding 294 patrons. The capacity was now 1300 seats, slightly reduced from the original amount of 1468, losing 168 seats.
The Cannon Group bought the cinema chain during 1986, re-branding all the ABC cinemas to Cannon. Gloucester’s ABC was re-named Cannon in 1988. In less than four years under Cannon management the theatre was closed on 12th December 1990.
Eventually the building was acquired by a pub chain. In 1996, JD Wetherspoons removed the stage and fly tower and gutted the interior, removing the balcony for the present pub/restaurant venue, based loosely on the style of the former interior, opening as The Regal on 3rd April 1996.