The Beatles make a return in picture form to the old ABC Cinema, where they played in 1963
The much-loved picture house has been decorated with pictures of The Fab Four, Bill and Ted and Jimi Hendrix.
The Beatles and Bill and Ted now adorn Plymouth’s cherished but closed-down Reel Cinema – and could provide a clue to its future.
Ambitious plans have already been unveiled to relaunch the venue as a picture house and a live music venue.
Artists have decorated the empty building with pictures of the Fab Four, Bill and Ted, Jimi Hendrix, a ska figure and the Ghostbusters logo.
The Beatles played there back in 1963.
The Royal Cinema Trust last year submitted a pre-planning application to Plymouth City Council to convert the old picture house and bingo hall at Derry’s Cross.
It talks of a three-screen “vintage community cinema”, a restaurant, café, bar, and “variable capacity music and events venue” to hold between 700 and 1,200 people.
Things have gone rather quiet since October – though security has been tightened up and the lights have been showing rainbow colours in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Mike Vosper, of Plymouth’s Artists Together group, which has decorated the building with the pictures, said it was “not abandoned”.
He posted on Facebook: “The artwork is provided by members of PAT as a way to show people that there are some great plans for its future if you look at the artwork closely.
“I don’t know much about the plan but was told when I requested space that the art needs to be either music, movies or art deco related. We did the Beetles as they played there in 1963. The other art is along those themes.”
Volunteers created the art with permission from what Mike called the “new landlord”. But he said the person or group was not yet ready to reveal its plans.
PAT formed last August on Facebook and has now got 1,200 members with about 200 active artists.
He said new CCTV cameras and lights have been installed for over 6 months. An automated voice warns people walking along the pavement that they are being observed.
PlymouthLive has been unable to reach The Royal Cinema Trust – but the pictures are a good sign of the venue’s planned future use.
The building, and its adjoining former Gala Bingo hall, may be old but it is neither listed nor in a conservation area, and there have been proposals to tear it down to make way for flats in 2017.
The cinema closed in February 2019, having last been used by the Reel Cinemas Ltd group. It marked the end of 81 years of entertainment at the venue, which also saw top musical acts including The Beatles, Tom Jones, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Sacha Distel, trod the boards.
Reel Cinema bosses said the movie house would no longer be a viable option once Cineworld opened a 12-screen multiplex at nearby Bretonside in late 2019.
The Royal Cinema Trust wants to develop a capital investment plan to purchase the cinema on the open market under the rights guaranteed by its status as an Asset of Community Value.
It takes its name from one of the old names for the picture house, which was for many years operated by ABC.
The trust wants to develop a community-led operational plan and business plan for the ongoing operation of the building as a self-sustaining organisation.
Built on the site of the old Theatre Royal, the Royal Cinema was built for and operated by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) opening in 1938 with Katherine Hepburn in Stage Door, and Cesar Romero in Dangerously Yours.
Faced in white Portland stone, in an Art Deco style, originally it had a seating for 2,404. It was re-named ABC in 1958 and hosted The Beatles and other pop acts during the 1960s.
The ABC was turned into a triple-screen cinema and bingo club in 1977. It was later owned by Cannon Group and MGM until a management buy-out brought the name ABC back in the mid-1990s. In 2006, it was acquired by the Reel Cinemas group.