Originally purpose built as a sport hall with a dual use as a variety theatre by local contractor Mr Sidney Watkins, who also built the Olympia Picture House in Newport. Construction started in 1921 and the venue opened later in the same year on Saturday 21st December, mostly focused on boxing matches which were popular in the valleys. The venue boasted a very large stage, with a number of dressing rooms underneath, while three offices were also included during construction. An orchestra pit was included from the start.

The New Gaiety Hall was very large and furnished luxuriously, with comfortable seating and all modern features of the day. Seating was provided in a sizeable main hall stalls area and a balcony with modern and comfortable plush tip up seats of the day. 

A projection box was built and equipped with 2 British Gaumont Kalee projectors made in Leeds. The venue was managed by Mr Ernest J Price. The first film presentation was on 22nd January 1922 with a bill comprising of OUT YONDER, starring Olive Thomas and BEYOND THE DRAMS OF AVARICE starring Joyce Dearsley, the two feature films were supported by a two reel Monty Banks Comedy, HIS NAUGHTY NIGHT.

While competition from other cinemas in the town had started to unfold the Gaiety continued to operate as late as the 1950s. The popular cinema was built over the river Ebbw and attracted the rats, which joined the audiences in the auditorium. Cinemascope was installed in the Gaiety, ahead of Newport and Cardiff. The venue proudly screened the Cinemascope blockbuster THE ROBE, in Autumn 1954.

Remembered by many of the town’s older population with fondness, very little is known about the cinema that continued to operate in competition to the other establishments in Abertillery, the Gaiety offered a choice of films that changed twice a week.

The whole venue was demolished during the 60s. Another great loss to the once thriving town.

Originally opening as a public hall around 1892 the venue was renamed the new Market Hall in September 1893. A grand new building that was built on the foundations of the public hall which had also been used on occasions as the towns market. The new establishment, a splendid Victorian building by Charles John Seaborne, featured a number of retail units, offices, ballroom and an auditorium with seating for 1,250 patrons in the ground floor stalls and the upper balcony and private boxes. As was common during this era the new venue boasted that it had the largest stage in Wales, outside Cardiff, something that had also been boasted by the Pavilion in town. The Metropole featured a highly ornate foyer and auditorium. The venue was very much of its day, in music hall style. Together with the ballroom the Market Hall became a crowd puller and a feature for weekend entertainment with its live shows and dancing in the ballroom. 

In 1900 the venue was enhanced further and became the Metropole Opera House & Theatre. In 1909 the ballroom was used for roller skating which had become a favourite pastime in the UK, the roller skating rink was operated by Mr C.J. Seabourne.

On Monday 19th October 1914 the venue screened a kinemacolor film, the first of its kind The Fighting Forces of Europe. The British invented hand tinted Kinemacolor film proved to be hugely popular. Big names of the day like Sandy Powell and Jimmy James appeared at the Metropole. 

by 1937 The Metropole switched from live performance to film with full projection facilities being installed. By 1946 the venue closed for a while, opening and closing as and when.  

Theatre staff photographed outside the main entrance to the Palace on King Street. Usherettes, box office & concessions staff line the stairs to the balcony at the former Palace Cinema.
With All of the established Abertillery cinemas closed, converted to retail use or demolished by 1976. With the exception of Blackwood or Ebbw Vale there was no choice for cinemagoers who did not want to venture on a long and sometimes complicated bus journey.

A solution arrived in the form of D Lyn Thomas, the son of Harry Thomas who had built and operated cinemas in Swansea. Lyn and his family had moved to the South Eastern Valleys during the late 1960’s, seeing a market for cinemas in the valleys D Lyn Thomas acquired the former church school library with a view of converting the typical stone school building into a cinema. Lyn Thomas had already achieved some success in Ebbw Vale and Pontypool where he converted former workmen’s halls and schools, churches for cinema use.

The Scala Studio Cinema opened in the former school library building sometime between 1973 and 1974, typical of Lyn Thomas, the cinema was very makeshift and somewhat ramshackle affair. Fitted with seating and projection equipment acquired at bargain prices from other former cinemas throughout the South Eastern Valleys, the cinema was very much a DIY type of venue although it was adequate as a replacement cinema for the town and seated between 80 to 100 patrons in reasonable comfort. The screen was much smaller than cinemagoers were used to in the valleys but it received reasonable support from film lovers in Abertillery. 

Several films enjoyed a good run at the Scala Cinema, in particular X rated films such as The Exorcist, Enter The Dragon, The Legend Of Hell House, the few remaining cinemas in the nearby valleys were strict on admissions for X rated films, The Scala didn’t mind if you were 15, 16 or 17, you would mostly likely be allowed entry to the over 18 films.

The Scala Studio cinema was demolished during the 1980s, a new library is built on part of the land vacated by the Scala.

Sadly we have been unable to source photographs for many of the cinemas that once played a big part of entertaining the community in Abertillery. Kindly contact the webmaster if you have suggestions on where to locate photographs and other material related to the cinemas listed here. You can email the webmaster using the email link on the main index page.
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2018
This page has been compiled with the assistance of Phillip Walkley. Phillip has fond memories of the cinemas in the Welsh valleys, further memories from Phillip are included in the Newbridge section of this website plus on an additional page where Phillip recalls his enjoyment of the cinema during his youth with a dedicated page of memories.
Of all the towns cinemas the Palace is probably the most remembered, not because it was the best cinema in town but because it was one of the town’s longest serving picture houses, serving the population with popular big screen escapism right up to the end of proper cinemas operating in the town.

In May of 1911 plans for a new Picture Palace was presented to Abertillery Council by The Building & Equipment Corporation Ltd, a consortium of business professionals based in Pengam, Cardiff and Newport. The local authority approved the plans which are understood to have considerably remodelled the former Central Hall which had itself been adapted for use as the Palace Theatre of Varieties. Work commenced on the new project and even though there would be some delays due to the towns narrow street posing difficulties for the supply of heavy equipment. Regardless of the difficulties the Picture Palace was completed within four months. The new venue advertised in the local press for a cashier, female attendants and a pianist in March 1912.

​The new Picture Palace boasted luxurious fittings with expensive elegant wall panelling and ceiling decorations of the era. The cinema opened with seating on the ground floor only 800 patrons. The Grand opening film presentation was THE RUN ON THE BANK, very little is known of this film, several shorts on the subject were released around 1911 so it is assumed that this was the featured opening film alongside supporting onstage entertainment. Local weather was good on The Grand opening event which contributed to a poor attendance for the matinee which was to have donated taking to the charity, Local Distress Fund, forcing the management to donate the afternoon matinee and evening performance takings £17.1s.9d. to charity.

Although the Grand opening was disappointing the conversion of the former hall and theatre would become popular, the quality conversion and remodelling for use from theatre to cinema gave it a purpose built cinema effect within the modernised hall. The owner secured many of the major big screen attraction of the day and continued to do so through to the early seventies. 

In 1926 with cinema becoming a major form of affordable entertainment and leisure throughout the industrial working valleys the owners of the cinema put forward plans for an extension to the original auditorium they had created. 
Scala - Pic courtesy Phillip Walkley.
Formerly an industrial town within the mountainous coal mining area of Blaenau Gwent, Abertillery struggled with its transition from an industrial hotbed of full employment and financial wealth, as was common with the majority of towns that form this section of the South Eastern Valleys.

More recently this traditional town has been transformed from an industrial relic to a modernised and clean community with funding from the European Union. 

Regeneration of the once prosperous and attractive commerce and retail centre of the town has commenced with plans to allow the town to compete with surrounding neighbouring towns that have already successfully transformed their shopping centres to attract business. Abertillery continues with its endeavours to improve the town centre and remains as a work in progress, meanwhile close by towns are benefitting from their own regenerations. Much of Abertillery shows signs of more buildings that have been demolished more so than buildings that have been refurbished or modernised for current day use. Recently the town’s last bastion of entertainment, Palace Cinema/nightclub was demolished and flattened for use as a car park when perhaps it should have been utilised for current entertainment use.
EMPRESS CINEMA -  Carlyle Street, Abertillery.

Originally the Empress Hall built by Arthur Tinlney who also owned the adjacent Pavilion Theatre, alongside business interests in Newport and Ebbw Vale, The Empress was a popular skating rink. The venue was also licensed for dancing generator provided lighting for the hall which boasted a plush maple floor. Towards the end of 1910 the once hugely popular roller skating fad seems to have lost its appeal in the valleys and Mr Tilney renovated the Empress Hall for use as a cinema and the grand opening took place on Boxing Day 1910 with the first film programme commencing at 4PM with continuous programmes daily, ticket prices would be 2d, 3d and 6d.  

Later the venue was renamed as the Empress Picture Hall and continued competing with other picture houses in town until its closure in the late 1950s The previously popular entertainment venue was abandoned remaining unused as a cinema or theatre for many years before being used as a factory for a short time before the venue itself was acquired and converted from a cinema to Empress Cars, a car sales showroom. This business continued for a good number of years with its facade a reminder to many locals of its use as a popular picture house, competing with the more modern and therefore luxurious, purpose built Palace cinema. 

Much later the former cinema became a small factory before a compulsory purchase order was served for the cinema and nearby buildings in order to demolish the entire site sometime during the eighties to facilitate the A467 by-pass road.

The photograph to the right shows the former Empress picture house in use as a car showroom, prior to its  compulsory demolition.

Don't forget we welcome further information/photographs  that you might have for all venues in the South Wales Valleys. Contact us directly via email.

GAIETY HALL/ CINEMA - Bridge Street, Abertillery. 
KINO PICTURES -  Alexandra Road, Six Bells.
Originally the Alexandra skating rink which closed just before it reopened as the Kino Pictures, managed by Jack Nightingale, replacing Mr Peter McWhirter. Opening in 1913 and boasting a programme of live variety and films the venue operated in competition to those just a short distance walk away in the town of Abertillery. The Kino served as an entertainment venue aimed at the miners and families residing in the area of the Six Bells pit. In addition to evening performances there would also be two matinees a week.

25% of the venues box office take was distributed to local charities. Old age patrons and miners on the sick leave due to work accidents could gain free access using their Union cards.

Many towns in Wales boasted a roller skating arena throughout the 1920s  often supporting sports roller skating teams who participated in hugely popular inter-valley league games with both adults and school children teams attracting great support. This fad ended abruptly and many venues looked at the growing popularity of film to fill the seats in the sports auditoriums.

In the 1950s a major refurbishment took place and the venue introduced live shows once again. Reopening again in 1980 when the Towns makeshift cinema, The Scala closed, this effort to bring film to Abertillery once more failed, it’s unclear what went wrong. In 2001 the whole venue was completely closed and left to rot, falling into disrepair a local campaign group protested to the local authority and with media support the local council refurbished the Metropole in 2005 at a cost of £1.2 million via a grant. Major reconstruction was needed and the venue became a multipurpose public facility with theatre and conference facilities while restoring the original Victorian features complimenting state of the art facilities.

As theatre became less popular in the valleys and cinema took over the Metropole became a cinema with a large screen, seating was reduced to 645 at this time. The venue continued to serve the community as a picture house until the mid - fifties when it closed and was boarded up for some time before being used as a market hall and eventually a complete closure that left the building unattended for some years, falling into disrepair. 

In more recent years the former market hall and cinema has been put into use again with a grant funded by the Welsh Assembly the venue was refurbished for use as a community theatre and cultural centre in 1999 with additional refurbishment in 2007. With seating now reduced to 216. Now renamed the Met and utilising its old name of The Metropole theatre. Part of the venue is used for conferences alongside community group and arts use. While local authority funding continues it is at risk alongside other such ventures in the South Eastern valleys.
PALACE THEATRE/CINEMA - King/Carmel Street, Abertillery.
OPENED: 1912 CLOSED: 1974/75 SEATING CAPACITY: 1,263 OPERATORS: The Building & Equipment Corporation Ltd, Abertillery Theatres LTD/Jackson Withers Circuit.
At the time of building the Picture Palace the company The Building & Equipment Corporation Ltd had acquired a building behind the cinema. New proposals submitted to Monmouthshire County Council for consideration, which was approved and facilitated additional seating in a balcony for 263, the back of the ground floor auditorium was increased by 100 seats and a new entrance was built in Carmel Street with a foyer, box office, sales kiosk, toilet facilities, offices and stairs to the new balcony and balcony foyer. At this time additional fire exits were added to the venue and an illuminated decorative glass canopy over the new main entrance would be a feature over an otherwise bland and featureless façade on the cramped Carmel Street. At this time the projection box was enveloped into the balcony with projection beamed up towards the screen rather than down as is common in most cinemas.

With seating for 900 patrons in the enlarged stalls and 263 seats in the balcony which promoted double seats in the back row for courting couples, the venue became the ideal picture house for the big pictures of the day, complemented by a generous size screen. Sound was installed a few years after opening. With a change of programme twice a week the Picture Palace attracted a wide audience with patrons visiting from surrounding towns. The venue also ran a successful Saturday morning Matinee for Children.

The venue retained its sizeable stage with dressing rooms following the extension and alterations, the venue was able to switch from film to live shows but from the early fifties the Palace focused mostly on film, with odd occasions when live shows were staged, mostly music performances of the day.

While many of its competitors started to close the Palace affectionately became the town’s only cinema, whenever anyone mentioned that they were going to the pictures or the picture house that evening or that weekend it was automatically assumed they were going to the Palace. The cinema remained very popular with cinemagoers through to the end, this popularity allowed the Palace to continue operating as a cinema while many of the other surrounding valleys lost their cinemas. By 1962 the Palace was the only operating cinema in the town. 

After the modifications and extension to the venue in 1926 there would not be a great deal of changes or improvements in the coming decades with the exception of the odd lick of paint. Although comfortable in the auditorium and to an extent within the small foyer, the facade of this cinema was plain and very bland without any features of note other than external advertising displays and illuminated still displays that were attached either side of the narrow doorway. The decorative glass canopy over the doorway was replaced by a basic wooden type alternative with internal lights facing down to light up the pavement and main entrance, unlike other cinemas throughout the valleys the Palace never did look anything special from outside with its plain facade. 

Following the decline of cinema admissions during the 1970’s the Palace struggled to remain viable for sole use as a cinema and so the operators, Jackson Withers Circuit, who acquired the Palace during the mid-1960s, switched to part time bingo in 1971. Bingo operated two days a week while films were shown for the remaining five days, this was a familiar format for the Jackson Withers Circuit throughout the valleys, and it had some success and extended the life of cinemas in the valleys for a short number of years.

By 1975 the Palace ceased showing films altogether with the focus switched to bingo. The Jackson Withers Circuit sold the Palace as part of a package to the Rank Organisation in 1976. Rank planned to operate Top Rank Bingo at the former valleys cinemas of the circuit. For reasons that are not entirely clear, Rank decided not to convert the Palace as one of its bingo clubs, even though it was reasonably successful as a bingo club operated by the Jackson Withers Circuit. It is thought that Rank inspected the building and found it had fallen into such disrepair that it did not warrant the organisation spending funds to transform the venue to the standard required for its premium bingo brand, the Top Rank Club. 

The venue was put on the market for lease or sale in 1976 with some interest but nothing became of it and Rank continued with efforts to sell the venue it ran bingo in the auditorium, eventually selling the business to an unknown local businessman who continued to offer nightly bingo in the former Palace cinema.

By the 1990s the Palace had been sold as a going concern, it was acquired by a local businessman and part of the venue converted for use as a nightclub with the Carmel Street cinema entrance and foyer bricked up and unused. Part of the venue was used as a snooker club but this together with the nightclub ceased in the late nineties with the venue unused. There was interest in the venue for conversion to a pub but this never happened and it is unknown why the plan failed. The Palace cinema stood empty, completely devoid of its past charm or any purpose.
By the 1990s the Palace had been sold as a going concern, it was acquired by a local businessman and part of the venue converted for use as a nightclub with the Carmel Street cinema entrance and foyer bricked up and unused.

Photo courtesy of Phillip Walkley.
Photo courtesy of Phillip Walkley.
Part of the venue was used as a snooker club but this together with the nightclub ceased in the late nineties with the venue unused. There was interest in the venue for conversion to a pub but this never happened and it is unknown why the plan failed. The Palace cinema stood empty, completely devoid of its past charm or any purpose.
 Following a number of years of minimal use the former cinema fell into disrepair; during an inspection in 1998 the old cinema was still showing signs of neglect and disrepair that has clearly accumulated over the past years of limited use. 

In 2015 the local authority agreed to purchase the venue with plan to demolish the Palace. Sadly the demolition plan was executed in 2015 and site is now a car park, a very sad end for the venue that entertained and served the community of Abertillery. Locally a businessman expressed interest in turning the Palace into an entertainment centre with a two screen cinema in the former balcony and a ten pin bowling arcade in the former stalls and nightclub area but nothing became of this.
Shortly after closure of the Palace Cinema in 1975, The Scala, a makeshift cinema opened in the town’s old school library building, see below.

With the Palace Cinema now demolished, all evidence of the towns cinema past has gone forever.
PAVILION/ NEW PAVILION THEATRE/CINEMA-  Carlyle Street/Bridge Street./Glandwr Street, Abertillery.

OPENED: 1907/1916 CLOSED: 1963 SEATING CAPACITY: 1,600/2,000 OPERATOR: Arthur Tilney & Sons PROSCENIUMN: 42FT. SCREEN{S} 1
Mr. Arthur Tilney and his family, Sons Ernest and Harold built what was the largest venue for entertainment in any of the smaller Welsh Industrial valley towns, the only other theatre of this size was in Cardiff. The structure featured a large rising gallery towards the back of the ground floor seating area together with upper galleries on either side of the auditorium. The venue boasted comfortable tip up seating for patrons with electrical lighting throughout which was powered by dynamo and lighting installations were provided by local business Geo Sutcliffe and Co. Heating was also a feature and often a major selling point during the era where families struggled to keep warm, Mr Tilney awarded Hampton & Co of Cardiff the contract to install a high pressure system of heating throughout.

The feature stage was the largest outside of Cardiff and an impressive 35 feet deep with supporting dressing rooms and an ante room for performing artists. The décor was in cream and crimson. The opening gala event took place on Monday 3rd June 1907 and the house manager was Mr E. Pryce. 

The venue offered no bar facilities, observing temperance. With two performances nightly the theatre was hugely popular with several box office breaking attractions. In addition to the popular light entertainment programmes there would be a Sunday concert, somewhat controversial because Mr Tilney observed strict temperance within his business empire. At this point the Tilney business empire included venues in Ebbw Vale, Newport and other towns in the vicinity.

In October 1915 the Pavilion was completely reconstructed with new walls, foundations, staircases all made of concrete at this time the main hall shifted slightly towards Glandwr Street with two sizeable main entrances. The newly created auditorium now boasted a large balcony accessed by an elaborate staircase and a number of private viewing boxes in addition to the stalls seating. In total the new seating had reached 2,000 covering all areas. The popular balconies moulded plaster cupids and floral arrangements. The grand ceiling also boasted elaborate moulded decorated plaster figures. The previously promoted heating system of the old Pavilion was replaced with a new radiator heating system. 

The New Pavilion opened on Monday the 6th March 1916 with an exclusive engagement in Abertillery of the crowd pleasing Charlie Chaplin shorts and feature film. On Monday the 13th March 1916 the New Pavillion started its programme of live shows with the reintroduction of two performances in the evening at 6.50pm and then 9pm.

From the start films accompanied live variety entertainment shows between performances with the necessary equipment installed at the time of construction.
Eventually the vast venue struggled to book the big shows that pulled in the audiences that would fill the seats and so film programmes featured with frequent week or two week engagement. 

In 1916 rumours circulated that Charlie Chaplin appeared in person at the New Pavilion, this was later dismissed and corrected by management who had booked a Chaplin impersonator to perform. Charlie Chaplin had appeared live at the Palace in Ebbw Vale. 

Although a hugely popular venue for live shows the New Pavilion started to programme mostly films from the 1920s through to 1950. Film was very popular in the valleys and when other cinemas like the Palace had a full house cinemagoers unable to get into the Palace trekked down to the New Pavilion. 

Photo courtesy of Phillip Walkley.
In the 1950s the Metropole theatre closed for a major refurbishment, during which time the New Pavilion hosted live stage plays and concerts that would have been booked into the Metropole. Film returned to the New Pavilion once the Metropole re-opened for live shows. By now, the Palace was the more popular choice when going to the pictures, however, in 1955 The Pavilion was one of just three cinemas in Monmouthshire to ever have 4 track magnetic stereo sound. The three cinemas boasting the stereo sound experience, Pavilion, Capitol in Blackwood & Newport, all 3 Jackson Withers cinemas. Unfortunately even though these 3 cinemas offered the best sound systems of the day, it didn't save them, all were closed by the end of the 1950s.

The New Pavilion fought for an audience for a while until eventually it closed and the site demolished with the new Llymes Social Club being built on the newly vacant site.

We have been unable to source any photographs of the Pavilion as a sports venue, theatre or cinema, Email if you can help...
SCALA/STUDIO CINEMA -  High Street,Abertillery.
With thanks to Abertillery Past Group, Blaenau Gwent Archives, Graham George Bennett, Gwent Archives.
Poster Courtesy of Graham George Bennett.
Poster Courtesy of Graham George Bennett.
Photo Courtesy of Graham George Bennett.
Poster Courtesy of Graham George Bennett.
Poster Courtesy of Graham George Bennett.
Posters Courtesy of Graham George Bennett.
Poster Courtesy of Graham George Bennett.
Poster Courtesy of Graham George Bennett.
Posters Courtesy of Graham George Bennett.