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Return of the ABC? Art Deco cinema could be back after 33 years

PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:58 06 April 2017

The newly built Savoy in 1936. Picture: Amir Dotan

The newly built Savoy in 1936. Picture: Amir Dotan

Archant

Hackney could soon be getting another of its old cinemas back. Auro Foxcroft, the man behind Shoreditch spot Village Underground, wants to dust off the seats of the old ABC and Savoy cinema. We had a chat with him

The ABC Cinema in July 1963. Picture: Amir Dotan The ABC Cinema in July 1963. Picture: Amir Dotan

A historic Art Deco cinema in Stoke Newington could be restored to its former glory 33 years after screening its last film – Al Pacino classic Scarface.

Auro Foxcroft, founder of hipster event space Village Underground in Shoreditch, wants to turn the old ABC picturehouse into the all-encompassing Hackney Arts Centre.

Pacino’s Tony Montana went out in a blaze of glory back in 1984 and took the cinema with him – it has since been split into individual premises. Today, the Turkish Islamic Association rents the old balcony foyer, the rear stalls are the Epic function room and above that is Efes Snooker Club.

Auro was tight-lipped on the future of those venues, but wants to eventually bring it all back under one roof. In the meantime, he’s made an application for an umbrella licence for all three venues, pending him agreeing a long lease for the building.

An advert for the Savoy Cinema. Picture: Amir Dotan An advert for the Savoy Cinema. Picture: Amir Dotan

He told the Gazette: “We are trying to restore and bring back to life this beautiful, historic Art Deco cinema and theatre and reimagine it as a fantastic arts centre for the borough.”

He said the enormous project had been in the making for years but was still at an early stage. The Gazette understands the shops that front onto Stoke Newington Road would not be included in any deal.

“The idea is a multi-arts venue,” added Auro. “Film, comedy, theatre and music.”

The movie theatre opened as The Savoy in 1936 with a showing of Gary Cooper in Mr Deeds Goes to Town. It was built and run by the Associated British Cinemas (ABC), and designed by their in-house architect William R Glen in the traditional Art Deco style.

The Art Deco theatre is now derelict but Auro hopes to change that. The Art Deco theatre is now derelict but Auro hopes to change that.

It became the ABC in 1961 until it closed in March 1977 and was reopened as the Konak Cinema the next day, specialising in Bollywood movies.

That lasted until March 1982, when it was taken over as an indie and renamed Ace Cinema, which closed in 1984.

By 1995 the buildings were separated and now the balcony, where once 1,000 people sat, remains

empty and unused to this day. The ornate, gilded ceiling is shielded from view by heavy iron shutters, while the stage remains deserted.

Inside the ABC Cinema in 1982. Picture: Amir Dotan Inside the ABC Cinema in 1982. Picture: Amir Dotan

Auro burst onto the scene when he opened Village Underground in 2007, converting four Tube carriages and two shipping containers into co-working spaces and then putting them on top of an old railway viaduct in Great Eastern Street – before renovating an old Victorian warehouse next to it to expand the venue.

The possible return of the cinema screen may spark a nostalgia trip for those old enough to have visited the first time around, but it has not been welcomed in all quarters.

The Gazette spoke to the Rio cinema’s executive director about the news, and he was less than impressed about the prospect of another independent venue within spitting distance of his and the Arcola Theatre.

“We’ve got two arts institutions that really need the local community,” he said.

A 1947 advert for the Savoy. Picture: Amir Dotan A 1947 advert for the Savoy. Picture: Amir Dotan

“There’s not the market for another venue.

“I would obviously oppose it quite strongly.”

A public consultation day will be held on site on April 23 from 10am to 4pm so people can hear more about the plans.

How do you feel about the possible return of the ABC? Contact the Gazette on 020 7433 0104 or email sam.gelder@archant.co.uk

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