Nostalgia: 40 years ago, Kirkcaldy’s ABC became a multiplex

Kirkcaldy 1978 - the first advert for the new multiplex ABC1-2-3 Cinema.
Kirkcaldy 1978 - the first advert for the new multiplex ABC1-2-3 Cinema.

This year should see significant progress, at last, on bringing a multiplex cinema back to Kirkcaldy.

With plans lodged to demolish the old swimming pool and build on the land, it brings the town’s love affair with the movies full circle.

Kirkcaldy ABC - the ABC Cinema, High Street after it was opened as a three-cinema venue.

Kirkcaldy ABC - the ABC Cinema, High Street after it was opened as a three-cinema venue.

For, it was 40 years ago this month that the old ABC Cinema became a multiplex in its own right.

The canopy which lit up the east end of the High Street with the latest blockbuster movies was first seen on January 29, 1978.

Work to transform the building from a single screen to three screens saw it cater for up to 1000 patrons every night.

Launching under the name of ABC1-2-3, it featured the latest technology which automated the projection rooms.

Kirkcaldy 1978: The 14 finalists in the Charm Girls competition run to mark the launch of the new ABC multiplex cinema in Kirkcaldy. Front row: Julie Hanson, Davina Reid, Joan Dolon. Middle: Margaret Bloomfield, Vicky Sharp, Yvonne Whitehill. Back: Lynne Crooks, Wendy Rodger, Doreen Henderson, Jill Hughes, Roz Sibbald, Shelley Doig, Fiona Chalmers and Gwen Watts

Kirkcaldy 1978: The 14 finalists in the Charm Girls competition run to mark the launch of the new ABC multiplex cinema in Kirkcaldy. Front row: Julie Hanson, Davina Reid, Joan Dolon. Middle: Margaret Bloomfield, Vicky Sharp, Yvonne Whitehill. Back: Lynne Crooks, Wendy Rodger, Doreen Henderson, Jill Hughes, Roz Sibbald, Shelley Doig, Fiona Chalmers and Gwen Watts

ABC1 was the biggest of the cinemas with seating for 547.

It was built on the existing balcony which was extended forwards, with a new concrete floor supported on structural steelwork.

New anti-proscenium walls were constructed to ‘’enhance the visual aspect of the new cinema’’ which boasted, according to the Fife Free Press report, ‘’silver-grey stage curtains, lit by tungsten spotlights’’ while ‘’walls are mauve, and the ceiling is a deep blueberry.’’

The smaller second and third cinemas were built side by side along with a second projection room.

Kirkcaldy 1978 - Douglas Adams, manager of the ABC Cinema

Kirkcaldy 1978 - Douglas Adams, manager of the ABC Cinema

And how the films were screened took the ABC into the world of automation.

EMI, the owners, brought in state-of-the-art technology which meant an end to re-winding the film after 20 minutes – each cinema had a single projector, enabling a full programme of up to four hours 20 minutes to be put on the plate.

The automated system brought up the house lights, switched on and dimmed their lighting; tasks previously done manually by the projectionist.

In today’s world of 3D films it all sounds rather quaint, but it was a huge step forward in the cinema world of the 1970s.

And another sign of how things have changed could be found in the competition to launch the new ABC1-2-3 – a ‘Charm Girls’ pageant.

Run by the FFP, it invited local women to be one of the three charm girls at the official launch, and the prize on offer included a trip to London and a tour of Elstree studios.

Each entrant not only listed their work and hobbies, but also their measurements!

The Ollerton Hotel hosted the cinema’s launch and announcement of the winners who were Shelley Dales, who worked at Hughes Microelectronics; Roz Sibbald, a teacher, and Yvonne Whitehill, a special constable.

The judging panel included some weel-kent faces – including Malcolm Burness, editor of the Press, Sandy Clark, editor in chief, and Douglas Adams, the cinema manager.

Douglas was ’Mr ABC’ – a long-serving figure within the company, he was a genial, welcoming man, well known to cinema-goers as they queued outside.

In the 1980s he used to lay on press screenings of the films coming to town.

We’d have the cinema all to ourselves on a Friday lunchtime as we got a preview of movies such as Three Men And A Baby, and Lethal Weapon!

Every press screening started with a coffee and a Kitkat in his office before we were handed the press pack of black and white images and production notes and then ushered into the empty cinema.

Douglas, who lived in Kirkcaldy, worked all over Scotland with EMI, serving in Edinburgh, Dundee and Falkirk before gaining his first managerial position in the Lang Toun.

And the first films screened at the new ABC1-2-3?

The Amsterdam Kill with an ‘AA’ rating starring Robert Mitchum, and Crime Busters (A) with Terence Hill have probably disappeared from your memory.

But the third film still has an appeal 40 years.

Slapshot, complete with the famous ‘X’ rating – now an ‘18’ certificate – remains beloved of ice hockey fans across the globe for its slapstick violence.

It starred Paul Newman told the story of the the Charlestown Chiefs, a failing club which turned to violence to pack the stands.

The actors who played the legendary Hanson Brothers, its main characters, still tour the world to this day, meeting fans and talking about the cult movie.