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Savoy ABC




The Savoy Cinema-Theatre at the time of its opening in 1930


An impressive view of the Savoy in 1953.


In 1969, where else to screen Oh! What a Lovely War than in the cinema that staged the premiere of Brighton Rock 21 years earlier?




In 1975 the quadruplex ABC was about to open.



The interiors of the new ABC1 and ABC4 auditoria.

Savoy Cinema-Theatre (1930-1963)
ABC Cinema (1963-1986)
Cannon Cinema (1986-1995)
Virgin Cinema (1995-1997)
ABC Cinema (1997-1999)

75 East Street, Brighton 17
operated 1930-1999

• The site was that of Brill's Baths, one of the focal points of Regency and Victorian Brighton, demolished January 1929.

1930 August 1 Opened by Associated British Cinemas (ABC), designed in Art Deco style by William R Glen, faced with white glazed terra cotta tiles (hence known as the 'white whale'). It costs £200,000. During the final phase of con struction, on 12 July, Ernest Smith, an electrical engi neer from Nottingham, falls through down the shaft of the lift he is installing and fractures his skull. He dies from his injuries at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. Its interior is in an oriental style inspired by the Royal Pavilion, designed by Charles Muggeridge and carried out by H H Martyn & Co of Cheltenham. A Chinese text on the curtains reads: 'Our noble patrons are humbly beseeched not to despise this unworthy entertainment.' Prices 1s, 1s 6d and 3s; 2,630 seats. Russ projectors and Westrex sound system; two restaurants, two cafés, a dance hall, underground car park (300 places). In the opening programme is an introduction by the mayor of Brighton, Wilfred Aldrich, filmed at Elstree Studios. The first films are a pair of British talkies: Loose Ends and Not So Quiet on the Western Front, with Pathé Super News Gazette and Pathetone Weekly. Quentin Maclean (1896-1962) plays the Savoy Wonder Organ (a Compton). Programme changes, unusually, are on Fridays, with midnight performances every Wednesday until 1939. The resident manager's flat is above the Grand Junction Road entrance; the first manager is Kenneth Duffy.
1934 Prices 1s-2s 6d.
1940 November 29 An incendiary bomb crashes through the ceiling of the auditorium. The film is not interrupted.
1946 Night and Day, the Fred Astaire musical, is shown continuously for 24 hours.
1948 2,630 seats, continuous performances.
Savoy neon1948 January 8 midnight World premiere of Brighton Rock is held here.
1949 April 2 Cinemas and other buildings are allowed to turn on their neon signs again [right] after the war time blackout, extended for four years to conserve energy.
1950s The manager is Councillor Alfred James Sadler (60 Florence Road, Brighton), who was mayor of Brighton 1958-59 (not the only cinema manager active in local politics).
1953 April 2 An anaglyph 3D short film, MGM's Metroscopix, is part of the support programme.
1953 June 6 First cinema to show the Warnercolor coronation film Elizabeth is Queen.
1957 2,560 seats.
1958 February 5 Closed for refurbishment and for wide-screen presentations and removal of the organ. The number of seats is reduced to 2,304.
1958 March 27 Re-opened by the mayor of Brighton, Cllr Charles Tyson (who is succeeded in the office by the Savoy's manager, Cllr Sadler).
1963 Name changed to the ABC Cinema.
1964 May 17-18 Mods and rockers smash windows during the Whitsuntide riots (the cinema is seen in some scenes of the film Quadrophenia).
1968 Now includes a burger-selling Wimpy Bar.
1968 Acquired with other ABC cinemas by EMI.
1972 February 15 Live large screen television presentation of boxing by satellite.
1973 January 23 More live large-screen boxing by satellite.
1975 November Closed for conversion. The last film on the single screen is A Window to the Sky.
1975 November Closed for conversion.
1976 April 3 Re-opened by Brighton mayor William Clarke as a four-screen complex with 820, 346, 284 and 231 seats. This soon leads to the closure of the Astoria.
1986 The ABC chain is acquired by Australian entrepreneur Alan Bond, who sells it to the Cannon Group a week later. The Savoy is renamed the Cannon Cinema.
1991 April With the opening of the Marina multiplex imminent, the Cannon chain—now owned by MGM Cinemas/Pathé Communications—puts the cinema on the market but it continues to operate.
1991 May The 820-seat ABC1 auditorium is closed, which halves the overall seating capacity.
1995 summer Acquired by Virgin Cinemas.
1997 Reverts to being the ABC Cinema, after being sold off by Virgin in a package of 238 screens/90 cinemas acquired for £68m by ABC Cinemas in a management buyout by former MGM managers who had run the chain until 1993.
1999 Closed.

• The shell of the building has been preserved and converted into bars and restaurants.

 

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Page updated 21 September 2015
© David Fisher