The town of Newport is 12 miles away from Cardiff and became established long before the heavy industries hit the South Eastern Valleys. With easy access to the industrial valleys Newport became the primary retail, entertainment and leisure feeder for the valleys people. In addition Newport benefited from its natural port where coal and steel from the valleys and the towns own steelworks could be transported overseas. 

The decline of the traditional industries of the South Eastern Valleys that brought employment and wealth to the region has affected Newport considerably and while it has recovered Newport has had difficulties restoring itself as the primary shopping attraction for the people of the valleys. 

More recently the town has been awarded city status and is undergoing considerable investment and development, this is ongoing and the City strives towards making itself an attractive retail environment in competition with Cardiff and Cwmbran which is a very short distance away from Newport. To a lesser extent Newport also competes with the city of Bristol, which is a short train journey across the border.

Newport once boasted an impressive empire of cinemas, many have now been demolished and there are no longer any cinemas in the original town centre.

The Coliseum opened on the 22nd June 1911 as a silent picture house under the ownership of the national Biocolour circuit.  The cinema was popular and by 1913 some unknown modifications were undertaken, without needing to close the cinema and interrupting what was a flourishing business. 

Originally seating 814 patrons in stalls and balcony, seating increased to 1,200 during additional modifications in 1941 by the then owners Gaumont British Picture Corporation who acquired the cinema during March 1927. The main entrance was relocated from a corner entrance to a new central entrance.

Internally the Coliseum was small, with a compact ground floor lobby that only just accommodated the necessary all in one box office and confectionary sales kiosk that were almost immediately off the street as you entered the foyer. Doors to the stalls were to the side of the box office together with a small staircase opposite and to the right of the box office, giving access to the balcony. In the auditorium the balcony was supported by a number of pillars, these made it difficult to view the screen when seated towards the rear of the stalls.

Gaumont installed the RCA sound system in 1930 and business was brisk with talkie movies attracting good crowds at cinemas throughout Wales. In 1941 the Gaumont circuit was bought by the Rank Organisation. For a good number of years the Rank Organisation continued to operate the Coliseum cinema as well as the more modern and much bigger Odeon cinema, just a stone throw across the road from the Coliseum.
By the late sixties the Rank Organisation decided that the Coliseum was surplus to requirements and closed the cinema on the 15th April 1967. The cinema remained closed and unused for a few years although it had been put on the market, for sale by Rank.

The Leeds based Star Circuit were expanding its cinema and bingo interests acquired the Coliseum from the Rank Organisation and reopened the single screen cinema on the 26th September 1970, this was a short lived opening and on the 31st December 1970 the cinema closed again, this time for conversion to a two screen studio cinema with a bingo hall located in the converted stalls area of the auditorium.

The new Studio 1 and 2 cinemas were created in the former balcony and stalls, reopening on the 1st March 1971 with studio 1 seating 339 and studio 2 seating 140 patrons. The compact foyer was given a substantial makeover as was the external appearance with a large readograph advertising the two film programmes on offer. Just inside the stairs leading from the street to the foyer a large modern display case was installed on either side, featuring the posters for films showing at each screen together with performance times and stills.
Following conversion to two studio cinemas Star retained a single projection room, Screen one continued with two conventional projectors while screen two utilised the less favoured periscope projection option.

Star programmed the main screen with mostly second run popular releases while in screen two was programmed with sexploitation films, giving the cinema a tawdry reputation.
Star continued to operate the cinemas until the Cannon group of cinemas acquired the Star Circuit. Cannon continued to operate the Studio cinemas for a few years alongside the ABC cinema in Bridge Street, which they also acquired. By the late eighties the former Coliseum was again deemed as surplus to requirements, this time by the Cannon Group who closed the Studio 1 and 2 cinemas to concentrate on their former ABC, Bridge Street three screen cinema.

Screen 1 closed on the 19th March 1987 with The Fly while screen 2 was showing Crocodile Dundee
The old cinema remained closed and boarded up for many years until demolition in the late nineties, modern social housing now stands on the site of the former cinema. 

Newport's rich history of cinema going is fast becoming a thing of the past with the popular picture houses that once formed part of the town centre being lost altogether  by demolition and development or being converted to other use.

If you have information, photographs or corrections to contribute please do so by emailing the webmaster, using the link provided on the  main menu index page. Alternativly you can add comments to the guest book.
Bridge Street
ABC originally had a cinema in Skinner Street, which closed in 1964 for demolition, leaving the ABC circuit without a cinema in what was a primary town of Wales.

ABC took a while to acquire a suitable site for a replacement cinema, other cinemas in the area were deemed to be unsuitable for the needs of the ABC circuit so it was a few years before suitable land became available for a new build ABC. Without a doubt the mighty ABC cinema, Bridge Street was the best of its type in Newport. Built on the site of the former Lyceum Theatre, in itself a might landmark structure, the new ABC dominated the main town centre of Newport. Following the demolition of the Lyceum construction of the new ABC cinema began in 1967 and was completed in a short time. Just over a year later the new cinema was ready and opened in November 1968 with Tommy Steele in Half a Sixpence. The new cinema was built at a cost of £250,000.

Designed by in-house ABC architects the ABC was built with red brick and boasting the biggest screen in Wales at that time, an impressive 58 foot by 28 foot high curved screen, the cinema was ideal for cinemascope films with the mammoth curved screen dwarfing the auditorium. Stadium seating for 1,320 throughout the auditorium added to the experience, ensuring that all patrons were given the best possible view of the big screen and excellent sound and acoustics the ABC was an instant success, attracting cinemagoers from around Newport as well as from the adjoining valleys. The new ABC was equipped with 3 American peerless carbon arc projectors. 

The ABC continued as a single screen flagship cinema for a good number of years after most cinemas had made operating changes to their estate of cinemas through conversion. Many cinemas throughout Wales and across England were starting to experience trading difficulties by the late sixties, when the ABC opened its new state of the art cinema in Newport. Even so, both the ABC and the Odeon continued to battle for business as single screen auditoriums. The new, modern ABC enjoyed considerable success against the odds with some lucky programming, big box office draws such as Jaws, The Hindenburg, The Eiger Sanction, Rollerball and the like were great attractions at the ABC with its massive screen. At the same time the cinema was programmed with a good number of films that were more suited to a smaller screen, in addition the circuit screened nationally many big screen versions of small screen television successes such as On the Buses, George and Mildred, Man About the House, Please Sir, It Could Only Happen to a Vet. These Television based films had an audience but a large auditorium would soon cater for the available audience and their run would soon be exhausted. The Odeon chain had a similar difficulty, most cinema circuits addressed the issue of lower admissions and shorter runs by twinning or tripling their auditorium, this was a quick and cheaper fix for the oncoming multiples onslaught that was starting to develop in the UK and throughout Europe

Finally the ABC was tripled in December 1980, retaining the large screen as cinema 1 with seating considerably reduced to 572. Two further screens were built using the rear of the original auditorium. Screen 2 seated 190 and screen 3 seated just 126. The original projection box with 3 projectors served all three screens. Much of the foyer area and lower floor box office lobby remained largely unaltered during conversion to a three screen cinema.

In 1999 ABC made the decision to close the ABC following the success of the new 13 screen multiplex on the outskirts of the town. The ABC closed on the 5th April of that year. 

Various independents operated the ABC following the circuit’s decision to withdraw from cinema exhibition in the town. Unable to remain named as the ABC the cinema was renamed Metro Cinema for a short time. The independent operators struggled to make it work and the cinema was soon acquired by another independent operator who renamed the former ABC as the City cinema. 

The City cinema continued to operate and should have been a successful venture, being the only cinema in town by now. However it remained a struggle and the old cinema could no longer compete with the out of town multiplex, revenues dwindled and the operator could not make it a profitable business.

Although the 1968 ABC building was still essentially a modern structure, operating costs alongside rising necessary maintenance costs were taking its toll, with dwindling ticket revenues making it difficult to cover these costs the operators were left with difficult decisions.

During my last visit to this cinema in 2007 it had become obvious that the operator at the time was struggling and was perhaps having to cut corners with minimal staff on duty and cleaning reduced to minimise costs. On the whole the foyer area continued to look modern and generally clean but the early signs of decay were beginning to show, it was a very sad experience for me, having seen the cinema at its peak in the sixties and seventies. 

At the time of my visit in 2007 a small crowd queued at the box office for tickets to one of the three film choices at that time. A far cry from the lengthy queue that lined Bridge Street for the screening of Jaws, when the lengthy queue wound down the street and around the corner toward the other side of the building. 

The cinema ceased trading on the 3rd April 2008, using the original structure the former cinema, developers started the task of conversion to a hotel immediately after the cinema closed. The old ABC is now a Travelodge hotel in the heart of the city. Externally the facade seems mostly unaltered although internally the magic of the cinema is completely gutted.

A Peerless 35mm Projector, similar to that used at the ABC, Bridge Street, Newport.
Skinner Street,
Originally the Olympia cinema and part of an independent exhibitor, the Olympia opened on the 14th May 1913 with seating for 1,000 in the stalls and balcony. An organ was installed during construction and was used for accompaniment to the films on screen. By 1930 the organ had been removed. In 1915 the seating capacity of the auditorium was increased to 1,570.

In July 1929 the Olympia was acquired by the ABC circuit and became the flagship ABC Olympia cinema for the town through to 1964, when it was demolished shortly after closure on the 4th July.

ABC installed the Western Electric sound system for the first sound film, Al Jolson in The Singing Fool.

The circuit continued to invest in the Olympia and in 1955 the venue installed a Cinemascope screen, to accommodate the new larger screen seating was reduced slightly to 1,486.

The ABC Olympia closed on the 4th July 1964 for demolition to make way for new Government buildings. The new building, a Government Passport office stands on the site and the office block is named Olympia House.
Clarence Place/ Corporation Street.
Clarence Place/ Chepstow Road.
Purpose built for the Rank Organisations Odeon cinemas the highly popular cinema opened on the 12th March 1938 with the film Young and Innocent.

Seating 1,546 patrons in the stalls and balcony within a luxurious auditorium. Newport’s new cinema was an important addition to the chain, so much so that Mr Oscar Deutch, owner and Managing Director of the Odeon cinema circuit attended the opening with his wife. The opening was a big event for Newport and many dignitaries of the day were invited along as VIP guests together with the paying public.

Harry Weedon together with Arthur J Price was the architects responsible for the design of the Odeon’s cinemas and used his traditional Odeon signature style for this latest creation. Typical of Weedon is the modern but classic art deco style look that had become a familiar feature of the purpose built Odeon theatres. 
The facade of the Newport Odeon features all the common trademarks now familiar to cinemagoers, a stand out curved frontage and canopy housing the main entrance to a spacious lobby and foyer area. The exterior includes a wedged tower while the lower portion of the exterior walls are decorated with customary beige coloured ceramic tiles complimented with black faience tiles for effect, in effect this highlighted the otherwise red brick buildings of Odeon cinemas throughout the UK.

During the 1970s the Odeon in Newport, like most of the Odeon cinemas, became the home of Walt Disney and James Bond films, although other releases were also shown on the screen, the Disney and Bond branding was used to highlight the chain as the place to be to see a Disney or Bond film in the UK.

Unlike most Odeon and other big town and city cinemas the Newport Odeon cinema was never twinned or tripled. The cinema closed on the 30th May 1981 with the Walt Disney film, The last flight of the Noah’s ark. The closure spelt the end of Odeon cinemas in Newport. In 1997 a new 13 screen Virgin operated multiplex cinema was built outside of the town centre, some years after the Odeon closed. This multiplex has changed name/operators a number of times, from Virgin to UGC and is now called Cineworld.

Meanwhile the former Odeon in Newport town centre has had a number of uses, as a night club, sports bar, live sports event venue and a church. These were all short lived ventures. In 2011 the venue was awarded a £180,000 grant for repairs, acknowledging the importance of this grade II listed building in Newport city centre.

The cinema remains closed although there are plans to redevelop the venue for use as a museum of cinema and television equipment, headed by Chris Plaister who has collected and exhibited the equipment for a number of years. This would seem like the most worthy of uses for this former icon of Newport, to date progress appears to be slow with little news on what has been happening. Chris relies on volunteers to assist him with his plans. 

Opening in 1889 as the Phillips Memorial Temperance Hall, the venue was converted for cinema use during the 1930s with the introduction of the talkies, which made going to the cinema popular in Wales.

Independently operated by a small circuit, Western Theatres, the cinema opened as the Capitol, seating 1,000 patrons in stalls and balcony, sound was provided by British Acoustic Sound Ltd.

Early in 1939 Gwent Cinemas Ltd acquired the Capitol cinema, Cinemascope was installed immediately as soon as it became available in the UK with a 35 foot screen decorated with festoon curtains in front of the screen, adding effect to the big screen experience.

Although a popular cinema the Capitol closed during the mid 1960s and the venue was demolished, a multi storey car park was built on the site.  
Dock Street.
Chepstow Road.
The Maindee cinema was located a short distance outside of Newport town, the cinema is named after the Newport suburb that it is located in.

This was very much a cinema aimed at local residents of the area during the peak of cinema going. Opening in 1939 with the film, If I were A King starring Ronald Coleman, the cinema seated 1,187 patrons with stalls and a balcony. Bordering on art deco in design, the interior included impressive modern stair cases which were decorated with colourful metal hand rails. Unfortunately the roof was made of tin sheeting during its early days, so when it rained you would hear it hitting the roof, this was pretty common with a good number of early cinemas built to a budget
It is unknown if Cinemascope was installed at the Maindee, although it is documented that a Western Electric sound system was installed for opening.

The Maindee struggled to attract the big audiences, with a large number of cinemas operating at that time, just a short distance away in the main town centre and showing the latest releases, the cinema closed in September 1961 with Bob Hope and Jane Russell in Paleface. 

Following closure the cinema converted to bingo, this proved to be considerably successful and the cinema was mostly know by locals as the Coral Bingo club until bingo ceased in 1994, the former cinema remained unused for some years following closure of the bingo club.

Nowadays the Maindee functions as a pub, part of the Wetherspoons chain, known for converting former cinemas into pub use. Trading as the Godfrey Morgan pub the new pub opened in November 1998.
Godfrey Morgan was perhaps Newport’s biggest benefactor, an influential family, living in the large Tredegar House from the 15th Century through to around 1951.