ABC Regal cinema, Southport.

ABC Southport

Lord Street,

Southport, PR8 1QD

 

Date opened: Monday 5th December 1938.

Original owners: John Maxwell/Associated British Cinemas Ltd.

Architect: William. R. Glenn. FRIAS.

Seating capacity:  1632.

First film shown: “Vivacious Lady” starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart.

Date closed:  Saturday 1st September 1984.

Final film: “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock” starring Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner.

 

A prominent corner site on Lord Street and Wellington Road, Southport had been secured by Associated British Cinemas to build a moderate sized cinema that was to have a seating capacity of 1632.

The company architect, William R Glen was challenged to design a cinema of this size to fit onto this compact piece of land.

The main entrance foyer of the ABC Regal, Southport.

The main entrance was on the corner of the building. On entering the reception foyer patrons were impressed with the  large and lofty, yet well proportioned foyer, a typical design favoured by the architect, William R Glen. Tickets were purchased from the paybox that was situated on the left hand side immediately on entering through the main entrance doors. A separate sales kiosk was also in this foyer. As seen in the above picture, centrally, there were two sets of double doors that faced customers as they entered the building, that led them directly into the stalls foyer. The circle foyer was accessed by two wide staircases to the left and right, joining up on a generous bridge landing and then onto circle foyer. The stairs, landing and foyers were fit with deep pile luxurious red and gold medallion patterned carpet that had been exclusively designed for Associated British Cinemas contracts.


The bridge landing at the top of the two staircases leading to the circle foyer.

The modern lines of the auditorium hinted towards Art Deco with contrasting ornate panels of grillwork on the splay walls and a central matching panel on the ceiling that curved  towards the proscenium. In line with the Glen template design, exits were provided either side of the front circle.

The architect had a particular talent of using ornate grill work, deep coving and scrolls that he managed to combine with straight borders and plain wall panels. Using pastel shades and lashing of gold edging he managed to create a unique style for each ABC cinema he designed, yet the sumptuous overall appearance was a stamp of Glen’s quality house style that other cinema circuits struggled to achieve. The choice of house tabs (curtains), that were made of heavy satin material, split draw, with ruching and artistically designed  with falling leaves of various autumnal colours complemented the stunning appearance of the proscenium.

The main ceiling had a large recessed centre panel with repeated ribbed borders. Most of the ornate features were directed towards the front of the auditorium. Balanced subtle lighting was achieved throughout the auditorium with a mixture of large drop pendant house-light fittings and concealed lighting in the ceiling and wall coves. A more than adequate orchestra pit was in front of the stage. However, unusually for this type of ABC build and situation, no organ was installed.

 

The ABC Regal opened on Monday 5th December 1938. The first film shown was “Vivacious Lady” starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart.

 

Front stalls of the ABC Regal, Southport.

A view from the circle.

Within one year WWII had been declared, but despite being close to Liverpool the building was not damaged.  It enjoyed buoyant business during the heyday of cinema in the 1940s. It started to suffer poor business in the 1950s, but fought back with the introduction of CinemaScope. The ABC often played films before normal general release due to it being in a holiday resort. The cinema depended heavily on incoming seasonal trade during the holiday periods. In line with company policy the cinema became known simply as ABC during 1962.

The modern façade of the ABC Southport, now with the additional EMI badge added to the sign.

The primary corner of the building where the main entrance was situated was given a facelift with three toned blue panel cladding, mainly to cover the deteriorating stonework.

It had the advantage of having 70mm projection equipment installed. However, even this  failed to attract audiences in sufficient numbers and the company decided to restrict opening the stalls area except when business required it. With sharply declining audiences the drastic step was taken to open for just the evening performances on certain days of the week.

Further attempts were made to reduce the running costs, for example, switching off lights, even in the auditorium which cast a gloomy atmosphere that steered customers away. This depressing atmosphere hastened the demise of this once iconic cinema.

and finally~ the last film shown.

The ABC Southport proved that it was still able to entice large audiences when films such as Jaws, Grease, The Godfather, The Towering Inferno, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Blade Runner, Time Bandits, Footloose, Flash Gordon, were played.  However, the business in general was not good and by 1984 the goodwill of loyal locals had been lost by the short sighted local economies that made the cinema experience too bleak to endure. The final film, “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock” was shown and the cinema closed its doors on Saturday 1st September 1984.

The building was demolished in the summer of 1987.  A block of retirement homes now stands on the site.

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