The Doric Columns
The Cinematographe gave its 1st public presentation in Paris, to the Société d'Encouragement de l'Industrie Nationale, on 22 March 1895. Only 1 film was available, La Sortie des Usines Lumière (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory), shot by Louis. Other film presentations soon followed; on 17 April at the Sorbonne, and on 10 June at the Congres des Sociétés Francaises de Photographie, by which time there were 7 more subjects, including Pêche aux Poissons Rouge and Pompiers: Attaque du feu. Others were taken and shown during the Congress by Antoine. Several more demonstrations preceded the 1st show to a paying audience in Paris in December. Louis ordered 25 Cinématographes from Engineer Jules Carpentier, followed by an order for a further 200, and within weeks, agents took them throughout Europe, America, and within months all over the world, shooting scenes and giving film shows. Quite soon this policy of appointing Official Agents rather than selling the device outright was abandoned as other manufacturers made alternatives available. Within 2 or 3 years, however, the technical limitations of the Lumière perforated film resulted in it being superseded by the Edison standard. The Lumières continued their photographic developments, including experiments with large film formats. At the Paris Exposition in 1900, the Lumières projected Cinématographe pictures onto a giant screen 20 metres wide. In 1902, Louis opened a Photorama exhibit in Paris, his invention using a band of film and fast-revolving lenses to produce, by means of persistence of vision, a circular, static Panorama. The brothers launched their successful Autochrome Colour Transparency system, the result of many years' experimentation, in 1907. Louis pursued an interest in stereoscopy, 1st with Photo-Stereo-Synthesis plates - 3-D portraits visually similar to holograms - and in the 1930s stereoscopic films. In 1935 he was feted during the 40th anniversary of Cinema, and the following year flew to London for the celebrations of the anniversary of the 1st Lumière film show in Britain. In 1948, shortly before he died, Louis Lumière was interviewed for French television and the proud, the elderly inventor gave a formal account of the origins of the Cinématographe for the audiences of a new world-wide medium. Stephen Herbert
Cinema in Britain
E.G. Turner and J.D. Walker, founders of the 1st film company in Britain to rent films, formed their partnership in 1896 when (based in London) they toured the country with Edison Kinetoscopes and Phonographs. In August 1896 they acquired a Wrench Cinematograph and introduced projected film into their shows, billing themselves as the North American Entertainment Company. The redoubtable Mrs Walker was their projectionist. Reforming as Walker & Turner in 1897, they had found less success than they might have hoped when going for a better class of audience and emphasising the educational aspects, so (as Turner recalled) they 'went for the working classes'.
This was a sound change of policy, and after a year's successful year's business they started to rent out the large collection of films that they had amassed, which ranged from Edison and Lumière titles with which they started out, to Robert Paul, Birt Acres, G A Smith, James Williamson and Mitchell & Kenyon’s popular Boer War 'fakes'. Acquiring up to a dozen titles of any one title, they hired out anything from single films to half-hour programmes.
Around 1900 Walker and Turner teamed up with G H Dawson (a school teacher who had hired films from them), the 3 names eventually blending to form Walturdaw in 1904, there after a leading film renter. In 1905 Walturdaw began film production for itself; in 1907 the company introduced its own synchronised sound film system, the Cinematophone. It continued a steady if un-ambitious path in film distribution until being wound up in 1924, though the name Walturdaw continued for some years after as a film equipment suppliers. Turner himself enjoyed a long period as a senior representative of the pioneering days, becoming chairman of the Kinematograph Renter's Society and the Kinematograph Manufacturer's Association, as well as president of the Cinema Veterans Society. The series of articles he wrote for the Kinematograph Weekly in 1926 provide a detailed and valuable account of the British film business in the 1890s.
Cinema in Aberdeen
Moving pictures arrived in Scotland in the mid 1890’s courtesy of a small number of entrepreneurs promoting their various inventions for projecting moving images, and Fairground Showmen who began to include bioscope or cinematograph shows as part of the regular entertainment. Just prior to the Great War Cinema began to settle down on permanent sites with ice rinks, churches and music halls being converted for the showing of ‘pictures’ on a nightly basis. The 1920s saw a period of lavishly decorated purpose-built ‘Picture Palaces’ reflecting Cinema’s upward move from its origins as a working class entertainment.
The Music Hall can claim to be Aberdeen’s 1st Cinema. Just 9 months after the 1st public demonstration of the kinematograph by the Lumieres brothers in Paris, 18 short films were shown on the 28th, 29th and 30th September 1896, including 1 that featured hand stencilled colour. Walker & Company 19 Bridge Street were the Cinematograph Suppliers but this may have been a convenient temporary address.
Princess Beatrice (inset) arrives at Aberdeen Music Hall to open a Bazaar
in aid of the Sick Children's Hospital. She was in Aberdeen to open
Duthie Park on 27th September 1883. Queen Victoria was originally
intended to perform the opening ceremony but she sustained an accident earlier
in the year and was unable to undertake the engagement. Princess Beatrice,
the Queen's youngest daughter, then residing at Balmoral Castle,
officially opened the park in her place. The day was declared a Public Holiday
and there were great celebrations throughout the City, concluding with a huge
fireworks display over the River Dee.
Aberdeen had more cinema seats per head of population than any other city in the UK. Useful detail on the classic super cinemas built in the 1930's and sadly now all demolished.
Gaiety or Palladium Cinema - 1908
Occupied the Old St Katherine's Hall of 1878.
There was a cinema named the Gaiety but it was located on the site of the old Regal Cinema at 10 Shiprow. It was Aberdeen's 1st Permanent Cinema and opened 5th September 1908. The owner of the Gaiety was Dove Paterson an early pioneer of Cinematography in Aberdeen in the old St Katherine's Hall of 1878. He also set up a wooden and canvas picture house named the Beach Bijou which was situated just south of the Beach Baths on the esplanade. It could seat 200 persons and showings could be up to 8 times a day based on the public's demand. A ringing bell indicated to the beach patrons that the show was about to commence. The Bijou ran from April through to September 1910 and returned the following year.
Refurbished by John Rust, Architect and renamed the Gaiety as The Palladium, 5th May 1919 and it closed in summer of 1930. Derelict it was later sold to ABC, August 1937 proposals to extend the building apparently abandoned.. The Palladium Cinema was then demolished but WW2 suspended the entire re-build project and it later opened as the Regal Cinema.
Such hard wooden bench seats or pews were still present at the Belmont and Casino Cinemas in the 1940's
Savoy Cinema - 49, Huntly Street in former Royal Albert Hall. Date of closure unknown, but certainly during silent era. Seems to have been a car showroom by 1923. Redeveloped, 1990. (Royal Albert Hall, Huntly street. Adam Matthew, keeper)
Coliseum - New Kinema - Belmont Cinema
The Belmont was a favourite Saturday morning Cinema as is showed the black and white Superman and Flash Gordon Serials with terrifying Death Ray's that held us enraptured as kids beset with scientific ideas, These were interspersed with Hop Along Cassidy, Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers Westerns to mention nothing of the Lone Ranger. Sing-a-longs with bouncing ball prompts filled out the proceedings for a grand day out. Cinemas would accept recycled jam jars and bottles as tender in the old days. The name Coliseum was painted on the Roof to advertise its 1st incarnation as a Cinema to advertise the location across the wide Union Terrace prospect.
The Belmont closed as Cinema in 1952, and the building was converted to a carpet warehouse. It reopened as the Belmont in October 2000 after major refurbishments, with 3 screens seating 268, 146, and 65.
Rear view of the original Trades Hall
1952 it was the
Belmont Cinema and where as children,
we went to see the serials of Superman, Batman, Rocketman and Captain Marvel
as well as travelogues, cartoons and sing-along films. One of the
projectionists was a Mr. Watt, who was both deaf and dumb but managed to
control the projectors by 'feel' both when changing over between reels, and
the sound level was sensed by placing his hand on the `monitor". The
manager had been a Mr. Taylor. When it closed it became a NAFFI, for the 2nd
time and spent its last years as a carpet store. It is a fine building and
deserved not to be left empty and decaying. It is now rebuilt as a
Cinema complex. History certainly appears to work on a 40 years cycle.
During my most recent visits it was interesting seeing the front of the
building had been taken down, but the stonework had all been numbered for
replacement. The 1st quarter of the building was wide open to the light
and it was interesting seeing the insides and rafters. Builders were busy
dismantling everything for the rebuild. Today, the building is complete
again. The front has been put back exactly as it was but there is a brand
new roof with gabled vents spaced equally along both sides. From Union
Terrace gardens it looks a splendid sight. Bright and clean, blending in
well along the Denburn. To see it to advantage it is best viewed from Union Terrace
Gardens. Back then the trains would be heard leaving the station.
431 Union street
Starrie - Star Picture Palace
My mother waxed lyrical about seeing silent films of Rudolf Valentino as The Sheik at The Starrie and The Globie where admission could be secured for 2lb and 1lb Jam Jars as collateral. now what is it in the the female psyche that makes them fall in love with idealised screen heroes of dubious sexuality. Valentino, Gary Cooper etc.
Star Picture Palace
23 Park Street
Happiness Ahead - 1934 Starring Dick Powell and Josephine Hutchinson
Cinema 217 George Street
The King's Cinema was oft remembered as the Locarno Dance Hall. one of the doorways had the Cinema name set in Coloured Glass and remained until they demolished the building. You could see the glass name from the tram or bus as you passed by.
Woodside (Rinkie) - Picture Palace 407 Great Northern Road
The Cinema opened 1912 in the old Roller Skating Rink of 1909. It was closed by, or soon after, 1923.
It then became a Garage, then a Warehouse,
Cheyne's Fish Shop and Reception Rooms, formerly one of the earliest Cinemas in Aberdeen. Near the White Horse Bar.
Silver City Hohner Harmonica Band on Stage at the Globe Cinema 1939
La Scala Cinema
La Scala, 234 Union Street 1934
Opened 3rd April 1914 by La Scala Photo Playhouse. Co. (Aberdeen). Architect. John Ednie & Geo. Sutherland. Sold to Green's, 10th April 1917.
Sold to Caledonian Theatres. (Brebner & Walker, Belmont & TSS etc.). Closed 18th May 1935 for building of the Majestic.
The pillared Cinema Entrance was to right of the main Billboard and appears to be displaying foreign national flags, The post box may not have moved.
She Learned about
Sailors 1934 - Shanghai nightclub singer Jean falls in love to a sailor, but
after his ship left Shanghai, he is of the opinion that he cannot support her in
the States, so he writes her in a letter, that he will not see her again, but
two practical jokers intercept it and write another with an opposite content.
Jean comes to the states, but her sailor doesn't acknowledge her, but the two
don't give up trying to bring Jean and sailor back together, Starring Lew Ayres
& Alice Fay
La Scala Tea Rooms dated 1914 showing a degree of opulent drapes high backed chairs and crystal lamps, fireplace and clock - these may have been the premises above level with an adjacent Billboard. A more sedate and genteel age.
La Scala Tea room opened around December 1914. In those days most cinemas had tea rooms attached because of the public demand for the "high tea" tradition. After a month of operation the La Scala extended their tea room to the premises above the Clydesdale Bank at 232 Union Street next door. This was called "The Chintz Room" and it had a paper roll piano reproducer and an elevator from the ground floor. During the war years the La scala tea room was populated with many soldiers and this attracted quite a number of street-walkers. This problem continued for a number of years after the war and the city council was forced to take action and close the La Scala and many other cinema tea rooms. The last remaining tea room was at the Majestic and was still in operation when the cinema closed in 1973
The impact of ‘the Talkies’
234 Union Street
The Majestic in Union Street, (opposite the Langstane Kirk), which T S Sutherland regarded as his finest creation. It had a fairly plain and austere frontage of Kemnay granite in the style by now known as Sutherland Perpendicular. By then, Aberdeen could boast 1 cinema seat per 7 inhabitants, more than double the ratio in London. (For more on this, see The Silver Screen In The Silver City by Michael Thomson, 1988.)
Jim Brooks’s photo of the Majestic Café interior situated centrally above the street Canopy with its 5 full storey windows. Thus continuing the Catering and Cinema experience present in the the former La Scala.
The Kinsgway - Art Deco Grandeur - so called because of its location on King Street (and Frederick Street) it had 2 entrances - cheap seats down the side in Frederick Street and the 'dear' seats from the front.
The Cinema backed on to Frederick St Secondary School where both my brothers Sandy and Jackie attended and played football for the School Team. One of their renowned teachers a Mr Ironside was better known 'Tin Rib's'. A kid could go all day to the pictures in Aberdeen during the rain and it inevitably resulted in a severe headache induced by stale air and a sort of jet lag effect with darkness to daylight contrasts.
Frederick Street when it was a Primary School had a segregated roof playground. The unique roof playground was the only one in the city. c.1907.
The school opened in 1905 and had a role of 332 infants and 764 senior/junior pupils. The airy and steel balustrade rooftop playground measured 750 square feet but this was later placed out of bounds possibly for safety reasons.
Torry Picture House
Opened 2nd May 1921. Renovated, 1939 and renamed Torry Cinema. Closed 24th September 1966. Converted into shops. It was a a bit of a 'catch up if ye missed it Cinema' - re-runs of out of date films - Donald's re-cycled tired old films that had exhausted their potential on the circuit elsewhere in the City first.
My Uncle Andrew Fowler was a conscientious objector during the 2nd World War and his punishment was not jail or hard labour but to be confined to operate as a Projectionist at the Torry Cinema - essential community work - some punishment eh. Better than a dim view of the grey granite walls of Craiginches Prison. He was condemned to watching endless romantic or western films and news reels a mere spit away from his home in Grampian Road. Alec Sinclair another conscientious objector on my mothers side and a real athlete of a man was tormented in Craiginches and Peterhead Prisons for his belief but he gave them hell in the true Jimmy Boyle style by 'fechtin' and causing damage to his cell and several escape attempts.
This would have been the early projectionists view of the original Auditorium. Note the ornate bijou Orchestra Pit and scenic backcloth for a small ensemble which proved essential during the Silent Era and provided regular work for the City's musicians.
Torry and Casino
cinemas were designed with a
The Casino kept most of it's design to the end but the Torry cinema having a
makeover around the same time as the
and used virtually the same design and colour scheme. They were very
contemporary designs and changed or hid much of the original inside fittings.
The cinema closed on 24 September 1966.
This image is claimed as the Globe cinema but is more than likely the Torry Cinema judging by the banded drapes and possible re-painted back cloth
The Cinema House - Union Terrace - Skene Terrace a bijou cinema
Union Hall, 3 Skene terrace, James Mitchell, Steward
Victoria Hall, Skene terrace, James F. Donald, Manager
Aberdeen Cinemas 2
losure in 1963.
On the picture of the City Cinema frontage left - one of the men on the left is the second projectionist Ronnie Dunbar, who later worked at the Grand Central or Grandie - Ronald G
The building, which dates back to 1836, was originally an Advocates' Hall for the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen until they moved to Broad Street in 1872. Then Lockhart & Salmond the confectioners ran a restaurant in the building until 1882 when it became a Conservative Club. This is when the curved iron balcony was installed. Upstairs were renamed the Queen's Rooms, perhaps in recognition of the 1887 Golden Jubilee and saw a variety of uses such as auction and sales rooms, restaurants, and a billiard saloon. The building was then converted into the Queen's Cinema and opened in 1913 and sold to James F Donald in 1927. A fire destroyed the interior of this Aberdeen cinema in 1936 and it was refurbished. Queen's Cinema closed in 1981. It was converted into a nightclub and reopened several times as Eagles, Legends and Espionage 007 nightclub.
Queens Cinema 114-120 Union Street - Opened 1837 as Advocates Library & Hall. Converted to cinema 1913. Closed 1981
The 1st experiments in granite polishing were made by the late Mr Alexander Macdonald, about the year 1818. Previous to the year 1819, the only tools used in dressing granite were small picks, and it was when the County Rooms, Union Street, Aberdeen, were being built in that year that chisels and "puncheons" were 1st tried by some free-stone masons, who, as work was scarce in their department, undertook to work in granite with the tools used in dressing sandstone. In preparing granite blocks for polishing, such tools, tempered to suit, were found to be extremely serviceable, and they were generally adopted.
The Capitol Cinema Union Street offered a full film/dining experience with its grand first floor restaurant. The Capitol opened in February 1933, on the site of the earlier Electric Cinema, seating 2,100 to the plans of architects A G R Mackenzie and Clement George. The interior was designed by David Stokes, and was the 1st Cinema in the UK designed from the outset to incorporate a full Holophane lighting system in the auditorium; this allowed up to 17,000 colour combinations to be projected in time to music. It had a sparkling dressed granite frontage, slightly asymmetrical in layout. Above the entrance were three tall windows with two shorter windows to the left and three such to the right. The frontage was surmounted by a plain but elegant pediment which had the effect of concealing from street view the high, steeply pitched roof of the auditorium.
The Capitol had the most remarkable interior of all the Aberdeen cinemas, which included a Compton Theatre Pipe Organ, It was built with full stage facilities, including a full-height fly-tower, 4 dressing rooms and the Compton Organ.
The proscenium width was 38 feet, and the stage was 32 feet deep. The Capitol closed for regular film showings in the 1960s, but it was used also for occasional rock concerts until the late 1990s; it was largely moth-balled since 1998, except for the use of the Restaurant as a bar. The organ grilles. The guts of the Astoria Compton were behind the grille on the left, whereas the Capitol Compton Organ's workings were on the right. There was only set of organ pipes on one side of the cinema, the right-hand side was a dummy designed to balance the other side. the Capitol was similar.
Lyceum - John Street -
Palace Cinema, Bridge Place leading to Bath Street
News Cinema - Diamond Street - Bijou newsreel and cartoon cinema later named - Curzon and Cosmo
Ernest Bromberg was born in the late 19th century, although the year of his birth is unknown. He was the proprietor of Aberdeen's 1st public Dance Hall, the Palais de Danse situated in Diamond Street, and converted from the premises of a local Taxi company. Bromberg was an avid Cinema enthusiast, and in February 1926 he began to hold events orientated towards the Cinema at the Palais. Notable examples were the Aberdeen Cinema Ball, at which prizes were awarded for the best likeness to film stars, and the Carnival that was organised to mark the release of the Charlie Chaplin film City Lights. Ernest Bromberg opened Aberdeen's 1st News Cinema, on 5 September 1936. This was only the 2nd cinema of its kind to be established in Scotland, and was "intended specifically to provide diversion for those with limited time to while away." The programmes that were shown generally lasted for an hour, and included local interest shorts and newsreels. The Cinema was created out of an old stable building, which Bromberg had owned since 1931.
Bromberg moved back to London in 1949. His links with the Cinema business in Aberdeen were not completely severed, however. He still owned the News Cinema, and a number of years later, he became involved in the exhibition of continental Films in the City. For a number of years, continental films had struggled to find a market, but by the 1950s were becoming commercially viable. Bromberg temporarily returned to Aberdeen on 4 April 1955 to re-open the News Cinema. Its name was changed to the Newscine Continental. The name of the Cinema was changed again, on 8 May 1959, to Curzon. On October 11 1963, Bromberg announced from London that he was selling the Curzon, to Singleton's of Glasgow. Bromberg continued to work in his financier's business until his death in April 1973
The Playhouse Cinema
The West End Cinema opened in December 1914 at 475 Union Street in a former Billiard Hall for English cinema firm, Associated Provincial Picture Houses. Reconstructed and renamed the Playhouse 4th September 1921 (1000 seats) Picture below probably taken in the 1970's. The central ticket office was removed in the 1950's. Renamed Playhouse Continental 3rd February 1959, Closed 9th May 1974
10, Shiprow and 35 Union Street
Opened 26th July 1954 after construction halted by WWII. Architect C J Foster to earlier plans by W R Glen. Seated 1,914.
Triple Cinema June 1974. Seated. 580; 150; 140. Closed January 1998.
Demolished for Lighthouse multiplex cinema, March 2001. The Cinema struggled to secure a suitable front Entrance to Union Street as its needs had long been advised and the frontage was held for a premium. Richard Todd attended the opening ceremony.
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