Cinema kept Lutonians entertained for more than 60 years

Tommy Steele is regarded as Britain’s first teen idol and rock and roll star.

Thursday, 28th November 2013, 4:00 pm
Savoy cinema in George Street, Luton, in 1957

Dubbed this country’s answer to Elvis Presley, he reached No 1 with Singing The Blues in 1957 and The Tommy Steele Story was the first album by a UK-based act to top the charts.

Only four months later he was filming his life story and to do so Steele and his songwriting collaborators, Lionel Bart and Mike Pratt, wrote 12 songs in seven days.

The film was shown in cinemas across the land later that year, including the Savoy in George Street, Luton.

Associated British Cinemas opened this popular picture house, which had 1,990 seats, in October 1938.

The name was changed to ABC in 1961 and it re-opened as three-screen ABC 1-2-3 in September 1971 after being closed for six months for major structural alterations.

Another name change, to Cannon, came in 1987 before it reverted back to ABC in 1996.

But the writing was on the wall for the ABC after 11-screen multiplex cinema Cineworld opened in the new Galaxy Centre in Bridge Street in October 1998.

The ABC closed for good on November 23, 2000 and the building has remained empty, and decaying, ever since, its frontage now covered by photos of Luton in bygone days.

As for Tommy Steele, he’ll be 77 next month and he has reprised his role as Scrooge from the 2003 stage musical every Christmas since 2009.