'In its day it made a dramatic statement but unfortunately through neglect we have lost that' - End of the line for Wakefield ABC Cinema as demolition plan confirmed

After all the blockbusters, the memories, and 20 years sitting derelict it looks like the end of the road for Wakefield’s ABC Cinema.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 1:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 2:08 pm

Plans have been proposed for the Art Deco cinema on Kirkgate over the years and there had been hope it would be converted into a music venue or another leisure attraction.

But Wakefield Council said after conducting surveys on the building it would not be economically viable to restore and proposals have now been put forward to knock it down.

The local authority acquired the building last year after it had fallen into a state of disrepair for over 20 years by a series of private owners.

ABC Cinema

Architects have been appointed to design a new building, which would include a new facade that will celebrate the cinema’s retro frontage.

The decision will be a disappointment to those who hoped the building could be repurposed, but the council said the demolition would fit into its broader plan to regenerate the Kirkgate area.

Coun Darren Byford, cabinet member for economic growth, regeneration and property, said: “Kirkgate is a key gateway into the city and the demolition of the ABC building will immediately improve the appearance of the area as well as supporting our plans to regenerate the area and bring additional investment to Wakefield.

“We’ve shared the concerns of residents about the disused and derelict state of the ABC Cinema building and it is an issue we’ve been tackling with a series of owners for many years.

“We’ve been considering all the options for its future and how Kirkgate can be involved in the wider regeneration of this part of the city.

“We are keen to look at how the site can support our ambitions for the area, and look forward to seeing the architects’ proposals.”

A temporary green area will be created after the ABC Cinema demolition is completed.

Wakefield Civic Society’s president Kevin Trickett said it would be a shame to lose one of the city’s only Art Deco buildings. He said: “In its day it made a dramatic statement and had well over a thousand seats, but unfortunately through neglect we have lost that – it is probably beyond repair.

“Although the building wasn’t in danger of collapse there were some problems and the council expected it to be recommended for demolition.

“The ABC is an Art Deco building, one of the few in Wakefield so it is sad to see it go but the council have said they asked the developer to reflect that style in the building that replaces it.

“So as compromise let’s see what they come up with”.

It is believed the broader plan is, with government funding, to remodel the area from Sun Lane to the roundabout by Wilko and improve the whole site.

Earlier this year the Cinema Theatre Association called for the ABC to be preservaed and suggested it should be converted into a live music venue.

Rob Chesterfield from the association, which works to restore historic venues, said: “To demolish such an historic building which can still serve the local community would be a mistake.”

The group has been contacted for comment.

The ABC opened in December 1935.

It was built by Associated British Cinemas during the golden age of cinema building.