Luton’s much loved ABC cinema in line for church conversion

The former ABC cinema on George Street, Luton
The former ABC cinema on George Street, Luton

Plans are in place to partially convert an iconic art deco cinema into a church, the Luton News can exclusively reveal.

Since its closure in 2000 the ABC cinema in George Street, Luton, has lain dormant despite the efforts of community groups which resolved to return the building to its former glory.

Most recently in December 2011 community trust ABC Savoy planned to turn the site into a mixed cinema and music venue, but the plans never came to fruition.

The disused cinema’s future is now clearer after the submission of a planning application to refurbish the front section of the building, which would be sublet to a pentecostal church.

Documents lodged with the council by applicants Fenton Property Management indicate that the old cinema’s screens will remain untouched and will be sealed off from the rest of the building.

A planning statement reads: “As the building was left in a stripped out and derelict state by the previous occupants we have had to limit the extent of the refurbishment for practical reasons.

“The remainder of the building remain unoccupied and sealed off.

“There are no proposals to change the elevations of the building with all of the refurbishment to the internal structure.”

It adds that the site’s proposed usage as a church is “sympathetic to the existing town centre, not dissimilar to the previous use of the building.”

The applicants were unavailable for comment when contacted by the Luton News.

> Designed by William R Glen, the building opened its doors for the first time on October 17 1938 as a 1,892 seater cinema known then as The Savoy.

It was the first cinema in the area to show a 3D film in 1953 and the first in South Beds to install Cinemascope and stereophonic sound.

In 1961, the venue changed its name to ABC before closing for around five months in 1971 when it was converted into a three-screen cinema.

1987 saw the cinema change its name to the Canon cinema - before changing back to the ABC in 1996.

The Galaxy Centre’s opening in 1998 was the final nail in the coffin– just two years later on November 23 2000 the venue screened its last film.