This Grade II listed Art Deco cinema was built in ‘Streamline Moderne’ style in 1936 as Northampton’s first ‘super cinema’.
Variously known as the Savoy, ABC, and fi nally the Cannon, it undoubtedly holds many memories for thousands of Northampton’s longer-established residents. The Savoy opened on Saturday 2nd May 1936 with ‘Broadway Melody of 1936’ starring Jack Benny. For the musical interlude, the Compton Organ “rose from the pit” and there “surrounded by an ever-changing array of coloured lights was organist, Wilfred Southworth”.
It was designed by William Riddell Glen, the house architect of Associated British Cinemas (ABC). In the 1950’s ABC embarked on a programme of modernisation, the individual cinema names were dropped and they all became known as ‘the ABC’.
In 1963, the Beatles performed ten numbers on stage, culminating with ‘Twist and Shout’ during “26 minutes of mass frenzy”. Other performers who appeared at the Northampton ABC included the Rolling Stones and PJ Proby, who was famously arrested after splitting his trousers on stage!
When the cinema was converted to a three-screen complex at the end of 1974, the theatrical facilities were retained, including the orchestra pit and extensive backstage dressing rooms. In the 1980’s the cinema was renamed the Cannon. The Cannon was unable to cope with competition from more modern cinemas and finally closed its doors in 1995, after screening ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Terminal Velocity’ and ‘Just Cause’.
The “skyscraper” leaded light vision panels in the original doors and the ocean wave motif of the proscenium surrounds both echo the luxury of a 1930’s transatlatic voyage.
The high-level “to Balcony” signage in the Entrance Vestibule, which draws the visitor’s eyes upwards, is typical of the symbolic optimism of Art Deco.
The gallery balustrades owe more to the curlicues of Art Nouveau than Art Deco.
The contemporary external canopy has been designed to be in sympathy with the Streamline Moderne style, as have the servery and info desk.
Although part of the “Art Deco” movement, the style of the Northampton Jesus Centre is really “Streamline Moderne”, typified by the use of modern materials (steel and con-crete) to construct sweeping curves and lines in balanced proportions.
In the UK, the optimism of the movement was badly dented by the Depression and effectively brought to an end by World War II. In the USA, however, it became the classic American style that lasted right through to the end of the 1950’s for objects as varied as radios, pop-up toasters, Greyhound buses, and government buildings.
Over recent years, Jesus Centres Trust embarked on a programme of restoration to return the building to use as a modern facility that reflects the glory of the 1930’s. The conversion, under the guidance of English Heritage, has drawn on WR Glen’s original plans and the photographic record. With careful use of traditional materials and methods it has created a stunning venue for the 21st Century.
Northampton’s previously derelict Cannon cinema has been transformed into a centre for worship, friendship and social care.
The Jesus Centre features a large auditorium and two smaller function rooms available for hire for Christian worship and other events. The Centre also offers a community café, skills training and a step-up scheme for disadvantaged visitors. It aims to be able to offer anyone practical facilities, a listening ear and other help and advice.
Watch the historical account- The Story of The Northampton Savoy (as it was called).