Once one of the largest towns in South Wales, if not the largest, Merthyr grew as the industrial revolution spread throughout the whole of South Wales. Blessed with an abundance of natural reserves such as iron ore, coal, limestone and water Merthyr thrived throughout the industrial era. This all came to an end and the town has struggled ever since although there are projects to change the area, most have been slow in delivering any major change of benefit to the town and the community.
Before you leave, don't forget to share your memories and information concerning the Castle Cinema and any of the other cinemas that once entertained the community of Merthyr Tydfil.

Your contributions and memories or additional information together with corrections is welcome and appreciated. With cinemas of yesterday fast vanishing throughout the valleys they will be forgotten before too long.

Email us or leave your comments in the guest book. Links for both features can be found on the main menu index page, using the link below.
High Street.
The Castle cinema opened on the 11th February 1929. Built by local contractor G Warlow, the architect was O.P. Bevan who had already designed a number of cinemas in Wales and around England.

Named after the Castle hotel, which previously occupied the site prior to demolition during the mid 1920s for the construction of the new Castle Super Cinema, the new cinema was spacious and luxurious compared to other cinemas that were mostly converted music or public halls, changing for the demand of film screenings that had gripped the working class communities throughout the industrial valleys.

With seating capacity originally for 1,686 in the stalls, circle and a third tier balcony, the Castle was indeed one of the larger cinemas in the valley towns. At the time of construction electricity was not in common use although there was a public electricity supply in the town at the time of construction. The Castle cinema was powered by a pair of oil engines located in the basement, generating all the electricity required for the entire venue. Not only was the cinema one of the best of its type in the industrial valleys it was home to one of the biggest and best organs in Wales.

The Castle Cinema Installed, the mighty fine Christie 3 manual/10 rank organ, which was heard on many radio broadcasts through the 1930s and 40s. The organ was positioned on the stage with a lift that would lower the organ below the stage, where it rested in-between use while film was screened. Unfortunately, maintenance costs were high for this fine piece of musical machinery and it fell into disrepair during the late 1940s, it was finally removed from the stage in 1954.

Sandwiched between the stalls with seating for 1,000 and balcony, seating 636 patrons was a mezzanine level with access to the small cinema circle towards the front, seating just 50 patrons, adjacent to the circle was a dance hall, complete with a spring maple floor.

By 1932 the Castle Super Cinema was acquired by the ABC circuit, making a bold move into expanding their established cinema exhibition business into the valleys. The valleys cinemas were dominated by independents and local small circuits together with miner’s institutes and workmen’s halls. ABC already operated successful cinemas in Newport and Cardiff, but in the valleys they would be in considerable competition.  The Castle Cinema was renamed the ABC Castle Super Cinema in 1963, still seating 1,686, ABC increased seating to 2,500, sometime after the renaming of the venue.
Although operating as the studio bar, original Star studio cinema and bingo signage remained intact on display on the facade, as seen on the image to the left.

The images to the right also show changes made to the corner entrance hall of the cinema, which was unused for some time, with entrance to the cinema foyer restricted to the main street.

The images serve to show how the venue fell into a state of complete shabbiness following a succession of years where very little repair or maintenance has been given to the former ABC valleys flagship cinema.

Cinemagoers who remember the ABC as a cared for and well maintained picture palace would be shocked when passing by the cinema while it was in this state.
A succession of ABC circuit Managers were assigned to the cinema some remained for only a short time while a few were there for a lengthy period of time as Manager.

No matter who managed the venue the cinema always promoted coming attractions with great enthusiasm, it is though that this was a result of the permanent front of house staff who would dress up to promote films in addition to the displays created in the lobby areas.

The photograph to the right features cinema commissionaire, Vines Perry, assisting with the promotion of the Hammer Adventure, The Viking Queen in 1967. The film ran throughout the ABC circuit that year. It is clear that Managers were keen to be involved in the circuit’s efforts to promote films, even if a particular film wasn’t one of the regular crowd pullers that kept the box office busy. Although a British Hammer film, The Viking Queen wasn’t a big crowd pleaser and soon became a support feature after its initial release to the circuit.
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013
Welcome to an affectionate appraisal and tribute to the cinemas that entertained us in the South Eastern industrial valleys of Wales.
UPDATED - 2013
With a fully equipped stage behind the screen the ABC Castle introduced occasional pop concerts, which proved to be highly popular attractions, commanding maximum ticket sales and audiences for the likes of Pink Floyd in 1967 and the Small Faces.

In 1972 ABC relinquished ownership of the ABC Castle cinema to the Leeds based Star Entertainment Group, who converted the former stalls into a bingo hall while the original circle was converted to a twin screen cinema seating 195 and 98 patrons. The balcony area above the circle was transformed into a projection box, although, for reasons unknown, both studio cinemas used the periscope mirrored method for projecting film onto the cinema screens. The conversion was basic box type and unkind. Two Westar projectors with long play towers were installed in the projection box.

From 1977 the cinemas continued to function with a succession of independent operators, bingo ceased to operate in the former stalls sometime in 1998. A third screen was built in the former bingo hall, utilising part of the large stalls area once again for cinema use, with a impressive 45ft screen positioned in front of the original stage area. The stalls were reconfigured and reseated with 300 luxury seats, opening in June 1999 with The Mummy. The new screen was now known as screen 1 while the two studio cinemas in the former balcony were renamed screens 2 and 3.

A new 12 screen multiplex opened ten miles outside of town, leading to the closure of the now three screen Castle cinema in September 2003. The old cinema had become dilapidated and with high costs of operation and maintenance the owners could not continue operating in a rambling old building with revenue reduced by the opening of the popular and modern multiplex outside town.

Following closure the cinema was converted for use as a roller skating rink but this didn’t last long and the venue was again converted for use as a pub and club, with high maintenance cost the club and pub also closed.

The Former Castle cinema was Grade II listed, yet the venue was demolished in January 2011.