ABC REGAL~ The Founder

John Maxwell

 ABC Cinemas was established in 1927 by solicitor John Maxwell by merging three smaller Scottish cinema circuits. It became a wholly owned cinema subsidiary of British International Pictures when it was merged with the production arm of British National Studios, which had been formed by Maxwell in 1926.

During the thirties it grew rapidly by acquisitions and an ambitious building programme under the direction of chief architect W.R.Glen, who had been appointed in about 1929 and maintained a distinct house style. Existing cinemas which could not be re-modelled were usually operated as separate circuits. In 1937, the parent company, BIP was renamed Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC).

After his death in 1940, his widow Catherine sold a large number of shares to Warner Brothers, who eventually became the largest shareholders and able to exercise control, though ABPC was separately quoted on the London Stock Exchange. By 1945 it operated over 400 cinemas (usually called the ABC Savoy, ABC Ritz or ABC Regal) and was second only to Rank’s Odeon and Gaumont chains. By the close of the 1950s ABC had started re-branding most cinemas as simply ABC and dropped the linked names. It began an aggressive programme of cinema closures.