Associated British Cinemas
ABC Cinemas was a cinema chain in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. A wholly owned subsidiary of Associated British Picture Corporation
Associated British Picture Corporation
Associated British Picture Corporation , originally British International Pictures , was a British film production, distribution and exhibition company active from 1927 until 1970...

 (ABPC), it operated between the 1930s and the late 1960s. The brand name was reused in the 1990s until 2000.


Early years

ABC Cinemas was established in 1927 by solicitor John Maxwell
John Maxwell
John Maxwell may refer to:*John Maxwell, 4th Lord Maxwell , Scottish nobleman and head of the Border family of Maxwell*John Maxwell , Scottish prelate, Archbishop of Tuam, Bishop of Ross...

 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
British National Studios
The former British National Studio is located on Clarendon Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England. It is currently used by the BBC and has been in continuous use since its opening in 1927....

, 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 Savoy or Regal) and was second only to Rank's Odeon
Odea, Odeon, or Odeum may refer to:* Odeon , ancient Greek and Roman buildings built for singing exercises, musical shows and poetry competitions-Modern era:* Cineplex Odeon, North America...

 chain. By the close of the 1950s ABC had started rebranding most cinemas as ABC and dropped names like Regal.

Television led to a sharp decline in cinema audiences after 1950 though with the coming of commercial television in 1956 ABPC expanded into the new medium with the creation of ABC Television Limited, which won the Independent Television
Independent Television
Independent television can refer to:* Independent Television , a Bangladeshi 24/7 news channel* ITV, a British television network.* Independent station, a terrestrial television station not affiliated to networks....

 contracts for the North of England and Midlands at the weekend. When these contracts were renewed in 1968 the weekend arrangements for the North of England and the Midlands changed and ABC Television was merged with Redefusion to become Thames Television serving London during the week.

As a result of the decline many suburban theatres closed. Most of those remaining lost their individual names and were simply ABCs. In 1967, Seven Arts
Seven Arts Productions
Seven Arts Productions was founded in 1957 by Ray Stark and Eliot Hyman. The company was a frequent producer of movies for other studios, including The Misfits for United Artists, Gigot for Twentieth Century-Fox, Lolita for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Is Paris Burning? for Paramount Pictures.Over...

, the new owners of Warner, decided to dispose of its holdings in ABPC and subsequently EMI
The EMI Group, also known as EMI Music or simply EMI, is a multinational music company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the fourth-largest business group and family of record labels in the recording industry and one of the "big four" record companies. EMI Group also has a major...

 launched a successful take-over bid for the company. Associated British Picture Corporation was later to be renamed Thorn-EMI Screen Entertainment Ltd and this was later divested by EMI to the Australian businessman lan Bond] who sold the chain a few days later in 1986 to the Golan & Globus "Cannon Cinemas" Group for a reported £50 million profit in seven days. EMI retained ABPC's lucrative television interests.

ABC Minors

In the 1950s, ABC set up the first major Saturday cinema club for children, "ABC Minors". At the beginning of each Saturday morning session, the "ABC Minors Song" would be played to the tune of 'Blaze Away' by Abe Holzmann
Abe Holzmann
Abe Holzmann was a German/American composer, who is most famous today for his march Blaze-Away!Abraham Holzmann was born in New York City. His parents were Jacob Holzmann, a Hungarian immigrant and Isabella Holzmann, a native of Louisiana. The young Holzmann learned music in Germany...

 (1874–1939), whilst the lyrics were presented on the screen with a bouncing red ball above the words to help the audience keep the place.

The challenge of the multiplex

In the early 1990s, on the verge of Bankruptcy, Cannon was taken over by Pathe Communications, a holding company which subsequently bought MGM. The new company began opening its own multiplexes as MGM Cinemas. The existing few Cannon multiplexes were also renamed as MGM Cinemas

MGM Continued to operate multiplex and non-multiplex cinemas, but under its two different brand identities, with the multiplexes being known as MGM Cinemas and the smaller non-multiplexes remaining as Cannon. MGM opened new multiplexes in towns & markets already served by their Cannon cinemas, and then closed the Cannon cinemas "due to the competition from the new multiplex" - examples of this happened in Northampton and Swindon.

MGM Cinemas subsequently changed hands many times, first becoming Virgin Cinemas
Virgin Cinemas
Virgin Cinemas was founded in 1995 when Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group acquired MGM Cinemas, the largest movie theatre operator in the United Kingdom...

. Virgin Cinemas was founded in 1995 when Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group
Virgin Group
Virgin Group Limited is a British branded venture capital conglomerate organisation founded by business tycoon Richard Branson. The core business areas are travel, entertainment and lifestyle. Virgin Group's date of incorporation is listed as 1989 by Companies House, who class it as a holding...

 acquired MGM Cinemas, Virgin Group
Virgin Group
Virgin Group Limited is a British branded venture capital conglomerate organisation founded by business tycoon Richard Branson. The core business areas are travel, entertainment and lifestyle. Virgin Group's date of incorporation is listed as 1989 by Companies House, who class it as a holding...

 bought the cinemas for £195m, and subsequently sold 90 of the chain's remaining non-multiplex cinemas to Cinven for £70m to concentrate on multiplexes.

Virgin then divested itself of the cinema business to French-owned UGC. Subsequently UGC divested its UK operations to rival operator Cineworld
Cineworld Group plc is a cinema chain operating in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Jersey. The chain consists of 78 cinemas; 76 of which are located in the UK and one each in Ireland and Jersey. It is the second-largest cinema operator in the UK with 801 screens, and the owner of...


While this was happening, the divested smaller ABC cinemas gained a stablemate under Cinven; in 2000 Cinven bought over the one time rival chain of Odeon Cinemas
Odeon Cinemas
Odeon Cinemas is a British chain of cinemas, one of the largest in Europe. It is owned by Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group whose ultimate parent is Terra Firma Capital Partners.-History:Odeon Cinemas was created in 1928 by Oscar Deutsch...

 for £280 million from Rank Group plc and all remaining ABC Cinemas were rebranded as Odeon or were closed. In 2004 the Odeon chain was sold to Terra Firma Capital Partners
Terra Firma Capital Partners
Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd is a leading U.K.-based private equity firm, best known for its failed investment in British music company EMI. Financier Guy Hands founded the firm in 2002 through the spin-off of Nomura Principal Finance Group...


On Glasgow's
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

 Sauchiehall Street
Sauchiehall Street
Sauchiehall Street is one of the main shopping/business streets in the city centre of Glasgow, Scotland. Along with Buchanan Street and Argyle Street, it forms the main shopping area of Glasgow, containing the majority of Glasgow's high street and chain stores.Although commonly associated with the...

 the O2 ABC Glasgow is now a music venue. Furthermore, all of the Butlins
Butlins is a chain of large holiday camps in the United Kingdom. Butlins was founded by Billy Butlin to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families....

holiday camps have an on-site ABC cinema. The only remaining High Street cinema still branded ABC is at Westover Road, Bournemouth, where there is an Odeon just up the road.
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