Ritz Cinema, Warrington.

Ritz (ABC) Cinema, Warrington.

Barbauld Street,

Warrington, WA1 1EX


Owners :  Union Cinemas Ltd.

Date opened: 23rd August 1937.

Opened by:  The Mayor, John Turner Cooper.

Seating Capacity:  1928.

First film shown:  “Without Orders” starring Robert Armstrong.

Compton 3Manual/6Rank organ installed and played on the opening day by Alex Taylor.

First General Manager:  Gerald James.

Date Closed: 23rd October 1982.




In 1939 the then Lancashire town of Warrington, later becoming Cheshire was home to eleven cinemas, including the Star, Grand, the Regent, the Empire and the Odeon. Another one of the many cinemas was the Ritz. Union cinemas opened it on the 23rd August 1937. At the time of construction a board stated that The cinema would hold two thousand people.

entrance foyer

The building was situated in Barbauld Street. The opening ceremony was performed by the mayor John Turner Cooper. The opening attraction was ‘Without Orders’ and ‘I Promise to Pay’. There  were several dressing rooms back stage and apart from the opening film there was a stage show with Macari and his Dutch Accordion  Serenaders.

A Compton 3 manual/6 Rank organ with a Melotone attachment and illuminated console was a feature. This was played at the opening by organist Alex Taylor.


Cinemagoers could enjoy a meal at the cinema’s café.

The first person to manage the cinema was Gerald James. Others include Albert Sidi, who in 1956 was champion manager of the ABC circuit, assistant manager Alan Peel, there in the 1960s, and writer of the book Picture Palaces of Liverpool Harold Ackroyd, who was a manager.

Ritz Warrington restaurant

Union cinemas had Saturday morning shows called the ‘Chums Club’ of which Shirley Temple was president. In 1937 there were over 100,000 members.

It didn’t remain a Union cinema for long because Union cinemas were taken over by ABC in October 1937. The Warrington cinema was just called ABC from 1958.

The cinema celebrated its first fifteen years of screening movies in 1952, organised by the manager Robert (Bob) Parsons, which included a 30 pound cake, an organ recital by organist Arthur Lord and a spectacular stage show with a local dancing school presenting ‘Dancing Through the Years’ (1937-1952). Following this, people who were celebrating a birthday or wedding anniversary that day were given a piece of the two tier cake and the audience singing Happy Birthday to You. When film star Anna Neagle had been in Manchester she recorded a birthday message for Ritz patrons and this was played back after each stage show.

During WW2 a number of Sunday concerts were staged, including The RAF band The Squadronaires.

Up in the spacious operating box there were two Simplex projectors with Western Electric sound, Two Stellmar spotlights and a slide lantern. In 1954 the Simplex machines were donated to the Royal Navy and were replaced by Westar machines, which stood on the Simplex bases. Gordon Hamilton was the chief operator in 1942 and in the 1960s the chief operator was David Edwards.

Rose Edwards

His wife Rose also operated there. She had been trained by Gordon Hamilton. Later Dennis Cummings and John Forster were operators. The projection area had a large rewind room and a spacious staff room. Access to the projection area was at the back of the balcony and from an outside door, where films were left and picked up by Film Transport Service, FTS.

The Ritz, Warrington now rebranded simply as ABC.

On the 19th August 1972 The building underwent a conversion into bingo and cinema. The stalls area became bingo and the balcony area became a 474 seat seat cinema. These opened on the 7th December 1972. The café area was also converted and a 90 seat video cinema opened in November 1980. Two years later, on the 23rd October 1982 the cinemas closed. Soon after, bingo also ceased.

The original stalls, which had been bingo became a night spot called Mr Smith’s. In June 2004 the local authority requested that the building should have a listing due to redevelopment of the river front. Nothing came of this and In March 2008 it became the Halo nightclub and the upstairs cinema areas were also used for this. This closed in 2010. Plans were under way to renovate the building in 2015 and use it as a youth club.

The building was damaged by fire in the early hours of the 14th April 2015. The building sadly had to be demolished.

 David A Ellis©chestercinemas.co.uk