ABC CINEMA (DEMOLISHED)

WHERE IS IT? Halfway along Sauchiehall Street, with the Glasgow School of Art directly behind it

Now known as the O2 ABC nightclub after being bought over by the Academy Music Group in 2009, the former cinema has a long history as a city centre entertainment venue. The building has since been demolished, but we have kept the page so you can enjoy our pictures of it and learn about the history behind it.



It was designed by Charles James McNair of CJ McNair & Elder, who became an expert in cinema and theatre architecture under the tutelage of John Nisbet. Along with his partner Robert Walter Ridley, they designed many of the cinemas in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. The ABC Regal, as it was known when it opened in 1929, was formerly the Waldorf Palais de Danse, a dancing hall that was then converted by McNair into a cinema. However, the building had existed since 1875, and went through a series of name changes and uses over the years. Originally known as the Diorama, it changed the name to the Panorama in 1882. Three years later, it was rebuilt as the Ice Skating Palace, before being converted into the Hippodrome. In 1904 it was transformed into Hengler’s Circus, before being partially demolished in 1927 and rebuilt as the Waldorf under architect Neil Campbell Duff.



It was designed by Charles James McNair of CJ McNair & Elder, who became an expert in cinema and theatre architecture under the tutelage of John Nisbet. Along with his partner Robert Walter Ridley, they designed many of the cinemas in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. The ABC Regal, as it was known when it opened in 1929, was formerly the Waldorf Palais de Danse, a dancing hall that was then converted by McNair into a cinema. However, the building had existed since 1875, and went through a series of name changes and uses over the years. Originally known as the Diorama, it changed the name to the Panorama in 1882. Three years later, it was rebuilt as the Ice Skating Palace, before being converted into the Hippodrome. In 1904 it was transformed into Hengler’s Circus, before being partially demolished in 1927 and rebuilt as the Waldorf under architect Neil Campbell Duff.


Since its inception as a cinema, McNair kept most of the building intact, while converting the dance hall into the cinema auditorium, with a two-tier seating plan capable of holding 2,359 cinema-goers. In 1967 an extension designed by Cecil Jack Foster was added to house a second screen, which became known as ABC 2, while the original was known simply as ABC 1. The latter larger screen was closed in 1979 so the large auditorium could be converted into four smaller screens. It reopened the same year, only to close down as a cinema in 1999. In the first decade of the new century, a major conversion of the interior was undertaken by Edinburgh firm Thomson & Partners, under the direction of David McBride from Regular Music, who re-imagined it as a nightclub and live music venue. This came to fruition in 2009, when the Academy Music Group bought a majority share, rebranding the building the O2 ABC. The group also own the O2 Academy in the Gorbals district, which by coincidence is also a former cinema, the New Bedford Cinema.


In 2018, the second fire at the Glasgow School of Art spread to the ABC building and destroyed it. It has since been marked for demolition.



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