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Spotlight on Scotland's Historic Cinemas

31 March 2009

The rich variety of Scotland’s historic cinemas is celebrated in a new book.

Historic Scotland, working with the Cinema Theatre Association, has looked at how the outstanding buildings where audiences have basked in the glow of the silver screen have evolved and survived.

Marking the launch and celebrating the iconic Cameo Cinema’s 60th anniversary (and 95 years since it first opened as a cinema) Culture Minister Michael Russell said: “The Cameo is a great example of a cinema that holds a place in people’s hearts as an Edinburgh landmark and cinematic institution.

“Spotlight on Scotland’s Cinema’s is the result of Historic Scotland’s survey of our country’s cinema building and from the number of people who contributed their knowledge and enthusiasm to  the publication - not least the Cinema Theatre Association - it is clear that the pictures remain a wonderful part of our heritage and hold cherished memories for so many of us.

“It could be the first trip with our parents, a particularly memorable date or just the last film that made an impression on us – but the memories are tied up with the atmosphere of our surroundings, often coming from the particular way the buildings were designed and operated.

“Over the years many of these buildings have had to adapt as they could no longer be sustained as cinemas but the variety of building styles is as wide ranging as the films they showed.”

As a result of the resurvey by Historic Scotland more cinemas are now protected by listing and the statutory descriptions have been updated.

Gordon Barr, of CTA Scotland, said: “Cinemas are an important part of our cultural and social history, as well as an often overlooked part of our architectural heritage. Whereas most of Scotland’s major theatres were designed by English theatre specialists, our cinemas were almost all the work of local Scottish architects, leaving a legacy of buildings that are probably more unique and diverse in design than those found anywhere else in the world.

“We're therefore delighted to have had this opportunity to work alongside Historic Scotland in the hope that this booklet will help raise awareness amongst planners, developers and the public, and encourage more sympathetic developments to help preserve the best of the buildings that remain.”

A request to review the listing of the Cameo was the impetus for the study. As a result it was upgraded from category C to B. The Cameo was originally constructed as the King’s Cinema at the rear of an 1897 tenement block in 1914.

It was refurbished and opened as the Cameo, Scotland’s first arthouse cinema in 1949 by Jim Poole. His daughter Genni and staff of the Cameo were presented with a cake to mark the occasion.

Ian Hoey, General Manager of the Cameo, said: “"We've always been aware of the great affection people had for the Cameo but recent events have shown the remarkable scale of interest in this historic venue and the very special place it has not only in the local community but with the cinema going public far and wide."

Spotlight on Scotland’s Cinemas is available to download for free at

Other historic cinema buildings featured in the booklet include: the Britannia Music Hall, Glasgow; the Hippodrome, Bo’ness; Campbeltown Picture House; Hillhead Picture Salon, Glasgow; the New Picture House, Fife; the Playhouse, Perth; the Playhouse, Edinburgh; Riddrie Picture House; the New Bedford Picture House, Glasgow and the Bathgate Regal Cinema.

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07788 923873