IT was one night at the pictures that nobody present will forget.

Bournemouth said goodbye to its ABC cinema on Wednesday with a screening of the 1985 time-travel adventure Back to the Future.

Associated British Cinemas (ABC) was once of the giants of cinema-going but the brand name has disappeared from the high street with the closure of the Westover Road venue.

More than 700 people were there for the cinema’s swansong, with almost £4,000 raised for the mental health charity Dorset Mind.

The cinema was decorated with posters and memorabilia, recalling everything from the Are You Being Served? feature film to E.T.

Outside, cinema-goers had their pictures taken with a replica of the DeLorean which took Michael J Fox as Marty McFly back to 1955 in the hit movie.

And before the screening, the audience watched trailers for movies ranging from Grease to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. They even saw the vintage clip that used to tell non-smokers to sit on the right of the auditorium.

The ABC was closing ahead of the arrival of a new Odeon at the BH2 leisure complex off the Square next month. The existing Odeon on Westover Road will shut just before its 10-screen replacement opens its doors.

Jon Kremer, former owner of Bus Stop Records in Westbourne, was at the VIP reopening of the ABC in 1970, after it was converted into a twin-screen cinema. He recalled being invited to a black tie event at the Royal Bath Hotel afterwards, with Till Death Us Do Part star Warren Mitchell and actor-director Bryan Forbes, who was then in charge of EMI Films.

“The first film was Paint Your Wagon. It was an extraordinary experience. It's an extraordinary thought to be back here at the last day almost half a century later. It’s still a grand cinema,” he said.

His son Dan, 37, saw Back to the Future at the ABC on its first release. “It's been some of the best times of my life,” he said of his times at the ABC.

“You don’t often get the chance to come back and relive an experience from 30 years ago and feel the same way. It's nice to go Back to the Future.”

Also present was Anderson Jones, 38, from Stoke-on-Trent, who garnered national publicity after building a replica ABC cinema in his back garden.

He said: “I’ve always been a cinema fan from a young boy and when I heard the final ABC was closing, I knew I couldn’t miss it for the world. It meant a lot to me to attend the celebratory closure event and it was great to see so many people turn out for this wonderful event.”

The ABC opened on June 19, 1937, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance.

When it was “twinned” in 1970, the main auditorium was given a 48ft screen equipped with a state-of-the-art 70mm projection system. A third screen was added in 1973.

Spencer Clark, general manager of the ABC and Odeon on Westover Road, said of the farewell: “It was a wonderful and poignant event. We were surrounded by over 700 guests who we have hosted at the ABC over many years, and it was fantastic to hear so many happy memories from everyone.

“The ABC cinema truly was special and meant so much to lots of people across the country and we are pleased to have finished with such a memorable celebration.

“As the future of cinema progresses and we are extremely excited for the opening of the new Odeon cinema in Bournemouth in February. Film fans will not be disappointed as it will offer all of Odeon services under one roof: a state-of-the-art ISENSE screen, a unique Kids screen with fun soft décor and the chance to recline in comfort in eight out of the 10 new screens and a new hot food range of pizzas and planks.”

Chris Price, interim CEO for Dorset Mind, said: “We are absolutely overwhelmed with the donation from ABC and Odeon. The money will go directly towards supporting local people who live with a mental health problem. We’re looking to expand our services this year so the funds are such a boost for us.”

After Back to the Future's end credits finished, cinema-goers saw the ABC logo linger on the screen as the plush red curtains closed for the final time.

More ABC pictures and memories a forthcoming edition of our Echoes nostalgia section.


DAILY Echo readers have been sharing their fond memories of the ABC.

Avid cinema-goer Liana Copland, 34, saw Back to the Future 2 there with her mum Mary in December 1989 – and has kept a book ever since of her tickets from the Westover Road cinemas.

“My mum worked at the Royal Bath as a chambermaid. Every Thursday, she would get her pay packet and tear it open and we went straight to Westover Road for some tickets to the cinema and some Baskin Robbins ice cream," she said.

“That was just the beginning of it really.”

She hopes the existing cinemas could be saved for community use. “I care about my town. These places are important to me.

“They helped people’s morale, they helped entertain us, they got through the war. We have to keep fighting to protect our heritage.”

Adrian Bowden said his grandfather Dennis was the manager who presided over the ABC’s reopening as a twin-screen cinema. “It was a big part of my childhood,” he said.

Jo Bushell of Bournemouth said: “I remember queueing for five hours to watch Grease when it came out. People were queueing down Westover Road. I was seven.”

Mark Cherry, now a Labour councillor in Oxfordshire, said: “I have fond memories of Bournemouth ABC cinemas. Every year, from the age of eight in the early 1980s, my mum and dad took me to see a James Bond film that always coincided with my family holiday in Bournemouth in the summer.

“My dad passed away in late 2011 but I still take my mother back each year for a holiday. I'm now 42 and Bournemouth has changed a lot since then but I still have happy memories of Bournemouth cinemas.”