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Report - Former Abbey Cinema - Liverpool - December 2013 -

Discussion in 'Theatres and Cinemas' started by georgie, Dec 31, 2013.

  1. georgie

    georgie He Never Even Got There
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    history taken from History of the Abbey Cinema



    The Abbey cinema Wavertree, Liverpool was designed by Alfred Ernest Shennan a respected Liverpool Architect who later became Alderman of the city of Liverpool. His portfolio of local cinemas included the Forum (ABC) Lime St, The Plaza Allerton,The Mayfair Aigburth and The Curzon Old Swan.

    The Abbey first opened on the 4th of August 1939 with the screening of "Joy of Living". Four years later the ownership changed hands from "The Regal cinema Company" to become the jewel in the crown of local cinema pioneer John F Wood’s Bedford Cinema chain, the owner/operators of Liverpool’s first purpose built cinema the Bedford cinema, Bedford Rd Walton (1908).A progressive company always at the forefront with the latest cinema technology soon brought film presentations in Cinemascope, 3d, stereoscopic sound and 70mm to the screen of Wavertree`s Abbey cinema.


    The Abbeys most important cinematic event took place on the 18th of March 1964 when after a brief closure for extensive refurbishment costing nearly £100,000, the Abbey reopened with a spectacular film format called Cinerama .The opening film aptly titled “this is Cinerama†was soon to have the Merseyside public queuing at the cinema`s doors like everyday was opening day at Primark. Without describing the technical side of Cinerama in any great depth, The end result provided the cinema going public with a gigantic curved screen which was one of the biggest if not The biggest screen per square foot in the UK and a razor sharp picture definition with full field of vision, comlimented by a seven channel surround sound system and an abundance of loud speakers, arguably a system as good as any modern day digital or Imax presentation seen today. If that wasn’t enough to wet the appetite, the Abbey also became the first cinema in Liverpool to have its own licensed bar. The original 35mm (three lens) Cinerama format was however short lived, primarily due to the expense and complication of producing and projecting movies using three individual cameras and projectors. Less than twelve months after “three strip†cinerama was first introduced to the Merseyside public, the Abbey changed to single lens 70mm Cinerama and similar 70mm formats sharing the same giant Cinerama screen. To the purist the only noticeable difference being a slight loss of picture definition at the extreme edges of the curved screen

    The first film presented on the Abbey’s giant screen in the re-marketed single lens 70mm Cinerama format was "Its a mad mad mad mad worldâ€, screened on the 15th of April 1965. Although the Abbey still regularly booked 35mm release films, Their box office takings were on average 30-40% higher with films shown on the giant screen. With this in mind during the years after 1965 the Abbey continued to press the film distributors for more of the same giant screen blockbusters movie. As the years passed the lack of 70mm product and the total demise of Cinerama in 1971 made this increasingly harder to achieve.Despite this handicap, throughout its remaining lifetime the Abbey cinema still managed to provide its Giant screen hungry patrons with a regular feast of current 70mm blockbuster movies, including new releases such as The Towering inferno, Earthquake, The Poseidon adventure, Close Encounters of the Third kind, 2001 A Space Odyssey A Star is Born, Oliver, Papillion and If there was ever a shortage of current 70mm productions they could always depend upon the ever popular timeless classics, with re-runs of Gone with the wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Ten Commandments, Ben hur, Dr Zhivago, South pacific and many other old favorites. By the mid 70`s Bedford cinemas Ltd had closed all of its other cinemas on Merseyside and continued under the company name "The Abbey Cinema Ltd" (reg No383978),With its head office at 19 Castle St Liverpool L2. Despite having a reputation as one of the best loved cinemas on Merseyside the Abbey was finding it increasingly difficult to remain open due to the increased overheads and fuel costs associated with running a building of such a large size at a time when uk cinema attendance were still continuing to fall. In 1978 the American company Cinerama Ltd went into receivership. All binding agreements made back in 1964 with the Abbey Cinema Ltd finally ceased and shortly after on the 25th of November 1978 The Abbey cinema’s managing director Tony Wood gave formal notice to all employee’s that the Abbey would close on the 25th February 1979. With strong public uproar to the impending closure supported by City councilor Cyril Carr and other Liverpool city council members there followed two successful short lived stays of execution. However the Supermarket chain Lennons eventually won the day and the Abbey cinema finally closed on the first Saturday of August 1979, Receiving a standing ovation from a near capacity audience after the final performance of the most successful film in the Abbey Cinerama`s 40 year history "The Towering Inferno". Now more than 25yrs since the Abbey closed its doors, Liverpool cinema audience’s have yet to experience a film on a cinema screen any bigger. Those who still remember the Abbey are left with just a distant memory of how spectacular later films such as Star Wars, Titanic, Gladiator, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter would have looked and sounded on the Abbey in comparison to other cinemas. If the Abbey had survived into the new age of digital film production it would have been one of the biggest & best screens in the Northwest to experience a 3d film and no doubt would once again have had Merseyside cinema audiences queuing all the way to the top of Church rd to watch Avatar and other latest 3d digital blockbusters on the Abbey’s infamous Giant screen.

    THE ABBEY CINEMA WAS IN OUR LIVES...

    When John Lennon was born he lived with his mother Julia at her parents home in Newcastle Rd Wavertree. In 1941 when John was just one years of age Julia’s own mother died.To help with John’s upbringing his mother Julia then took a part time job as a usherette working at the nearby Abbey cinema while her father stayed at home with John. As John grew older he regulary visited his mothers work place to watch the movies including his screen idol Elvis Presley. John Lennon: “You see we wanted to be bigger than Elvis that was the main thingâ€. Tragically when John was seventeen his mother died after being struck by a car. After her death John still often visited the Abbey, sitting in the circle close to the wooden flip up ushers seat where his mother once sat as the cinema usherette back in 1942. In 1964 inspired by his childhood memories of places including the Abbey cinema, John wrote the lyrics to a song which many musicians consider to be one of the greatest beatles songs of all. The song in question was called “In My Lifeâ€

    "There are places i'll remember, All my life though some have changed, Some forever but not for better, Some have gone and some remain, Penny Lane is one I`m missing, Up Church Rd to the clock tower, In the circle of the Abbey,I have seen some happy hours"


    here is that transcript......john Lennon`s original hand written lyrics to the first verse of “In My Life “. The words were later changed to make more lyrical sense to a world wide audience

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    and here is the song in question
    The Beatles - In My Life 1080p [HD] - YouTube

    George Harrison also lived just across the road from the Abbey with his parents, two brothers and sister in Arnold Grove Wavertree.For George in his youth the Abbey was a integral part of his family upbringing. When he became famous he often spoke publicly with great fondness of this his local cinema.In a rare television interview for ITV he said as a teenager he would go to the Abbey to see films with all the American Rock & Roll stars in. He recalled in the interview, on one occasion after a visit to the Abbey with John Lennon to watch Rock around the Clock,they both could not help but notice all the female attention Bill Haley & the Comets attracted on the Silver screen and on the way out after the movie had finished George joked “That’s the type of job I want to have, and as the saying goes, The rest was history !.

    today the abbey cinema is shared with the co-op foodstore and rileys snooker which closed some years ago, its last use before riley's was as a bingo,there are only a few reminders of its once former use as a cinema,most of the stuff like projectors were auctioned off after its closure so its mainly lights fittings and ceiling deco and a few tiled floors which remain intact (or the undeveloped parts as the plans said in the basement)

    a few old pics i found online first

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    and today
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    rileys conversion from bingo to snooker hall....i think the marble floor is original to the cinema...the bingo stuff is covered up behind the false walls.......more on that later
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    looking down to where the screen used to be
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    behind the scenes things get a bit more interesting.....covered up is the original foyer lighting inside decorated domes
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    if you compare this pics to the ones that are next it gives you an idea on what they were like....also the floor seems to remain intact
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    the floor seems to match the one in the black an white pic
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    up into the tower
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    some of the bingo stuff hidden by false walls
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    also up above the false ceiling there seemed to be a big dome
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    some original windows remain in the offices.........................................................wavertree clocktower
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    some plans in the basement...looks like when rileys was getting fitted out
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    quite some time ago i visited john lennons mums grave in allerton cemetry i was told johns ashes were brought here and buried along with his mum shortly after his death...how true this is i dont know,but a lot of people ive spoke to confirm this story,however on arriving at the grave i found 2 small slate headstones facing eachother,the one opposite johns mums grave was her boyfriends grave,john apparently didnt want him buried with his mum so they put him opposite.

    "Born Julia Stanley, she was the mother of John Lennon, legendary guitarist/singer/songwriter for The Beatles. She married his father, merchant seaman Alfred "Freddie" Lennon, on December 3, 1938, against the wishes of her father, George Ernest Stanley (her mother was Annie Millward). John was born on October 9, 1940, after Julia endured nearly 30 hours of labor, amidst an air raid from the Nazis. Both of John's parents dabbled in entertainment, though neither pursued it professionally (Julia was described by John as a comedienne and singer). Julia and Fred split when John was 4 and left him in the care of her sister, Mary Smith (John's famed "Aunt Mimi"). Reportedly, Julia got pregnant by a sailor and had a daughter, Victoria Elizabeth, born on June 19, 1945. She was forced to give the girl up for adoption by her strict father (and her sister allegedly refused to raise an illegitimate child). The girl was adopted by a Norwegian family and was never seen or heard from again. Julia took up with Robert Dykins (whom John nicknamed Twitchy) and had two daughters with him – Julia, born in 1947, and Jacqueline, born in 1949. Julia and John maintained a close relationship, despite the fact that they lived apart (John wouldn't learn until much later that his mother never lived more than 10 miles from him). She played the banjo and introduced John to the instrument. John wrote three songs in honor of his mother: "Julia," which appeared on The Beatles' 1968 "White Album," as well as "My Mummy's Dead" and "Mother," both of which were released during his solo career. His first son, Julian (born John Charles Julian Lennon), is named, in part, after her. She was killed when a car driven by an off-duty policeman, who was drunk, struck and killed her while she was standing at a bus stop. The policeman was later acquitted."

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    John Lennon 1940-1980
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    Maryjane likes this.

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