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The building is now complete. Although only the facade remains, it sports a nice illuminated Olympia sign above the entrance, and a display on the building’s history just inside the entrance. It houses Bridgeton Library and a cafe on the ground floor, with offices above – including the home of Scotland’s amateur boxing and wrestling associations. The library also houses Scotland’s first BFI Mediatheque, where the public can view a vast selection of BFI archive material, as well as films from the Scottish Screen Archive – so another nice cinema connection.
The 2008 pub plans were abandoned and the building put up for sale, but there were no takers. Wetherspoon’s have now changed their mind and decided to go ahead with the pub plan, and a fresh planning application was lodged in August 2013.
Now named The Hillhead Bookclub, the venue continues as a bar with a slightly quirky theme, reflecting the bohemian student neighbourhood in which it lies. The decoration has been altered to that of shabby industrial chic, and the false window in the former screen area has been removed, exposing the bare wall face beneath. Nonetheless, most of the decorated plasterwork on the ceiling is still visible.
Some pics from 2007 here:
Now a bar and club complex called Zico’s.
The casino is now called Mint. No trace of the former cinema is evident, as it appears that the small auditorium block was replaced by a much larger structure for the ballroom. The ballroom also appears to have gone by several later names, including Tiffany’s.
The nightclub, Jumpin' Jaks, which was in the upper half of the auditorium, closed in late 2008. The restaurant in the former cafe had already closed by this time, meaning that the brutal subdivision of what was possibly the best preserved art deco cinema in Scotland was all for only two to three years of leisure use.
Photographic surveys can be found on an urban exploration website:
Jumpin' Jaks (upper half of auditorium):
Restaurant (former cafe area):
Shortly after opening as a live music venue in September 2008, it was renamed the HMV Picture House, following a new sponsorship deal.
Now called the O2 Academy after a change of sponsorship.
Now pretty much almost gone, gallery charting the demolition work can be found here:
I can see no reason why the tower and facade couldn’t have been retained other than people taking the lazy, easy option of complete demolition.
Although the decision to allow demolition has been passed by Edinburgh City Council, the final say on Listed Building Consent has still to be passed by heritage body Historic Scotland.
A new electronic petition was launched yesterday to try to push for Historic Scotland to refuse this application.
In less than 24 hours, it has collected 500+ signatures, the majority of which seem to be from Edinburgh residents themselves keen to see the building re-used as some kind of cultural or leisure venue, which would be much more sympathetic to the historic fabric of the building than a boutique hotel. It’s situated in a slightly rundown area of the city, and such a cultural or arts venue would be an excellent anchor for regeneration – and would give much mroe back to the community than any commercial hotel enterprise would offer.
You can find the petition here, please take a moment to sign:
Sadly, the destructive plans were passed, although by a closely split vote of 6-4. Many organisations, such as the CTA and the Theatres Trust, will be requesting that the decision be called-in by Historic Scotland for a possible public inquiry.
The New Victoria is under very serious threat now – the planning application submitted in January 2008 which involved demolition of the interior of the auditorium block for a hotel is due to be discussed by the City of Edinburgh Council planning committee on Wed 29th October. The planning officer in charge of the case is recommending that the application be granted, but the councillors on the planning committee may vote against this recommendation – although this is very rare indeed. We are trying to lobby those councillors by emailing them before Wednesday morning to remind them of the importance of the cinema in a national context. We would be very grateful if others could do so too. Their names are printed below, and their email addresses take the form
Now completely demolished after being served with a dangerous buildings notice due to the structural problems, see the first link I posted above for photos of the work in progress – the only thing salvaged was one of the prancing deer stained glass windows, which was in surprisingly good condition.
This has been closed for a few years now after it was discovered that the building did not meet modern licensing requirements for a theatre. It was latterly run by Queen Margaret University. Planning permission has been granted for redevelopment behind a retained facade, but this does not appear to have been started.
More pics and info here
Photos and a wee bit of history here
The listing was upgraded to Category B in 2008 as part of Historic Scotland’s cinema thematic re-survey.
The Caley re-opens this month as a live music venue and club called The Picture House, run by the MAMA Group. The gaudy pink interior scheme and intrusive bars appear to have been removed for this more sympathetic use.
A view of the proscenium from May 2008 is here, and a shot of the ballroom from the same time is here
Although one of the previous Flickr photos describes the cinema as closed, this was never the case – the bingo operation has been open constantly since the building ceased to function as a cinema, albeit with changes of management.
The attempt to re-introduce cinema screenings in light of the 2006 smoking ban was not full-time, but took place on quieter evenings of the week, with bingo continuing at all other times. This actually used DVD projection, although the original sound system was still used, with only the main speaker horn requiring replacement. The digital projector was situated in the original projection box, with the old 35mm projectors pushed to one side.
Cinema screenings took place
The occasional first-run film was shown using 35mm film projection on
hired equipment installed temporarily in the stalls – cinema seating was in the balcony only, the stalls having housed bingo tables fonow.
Although regular film screenings have now ceased, the building still screens the odd film, usually as part of a programme of events sponsored by Strathclyde Police, designed to occupy children during school holidays.
Bingo use continues more-or-less full-time again, as of 2008.
A photo survey and history can be found here:
Photo survey and history here:
Full history and photo survey here:
The listing was very welcome, and is part of the first batch of new and upgraded listings to result from our cinema thematic survey with Historic Scotland.
To clarify some of the info above, the hall was purpose-built as the Empire Electric Theatre, rather than being a conversion. That name is carved into the facade above the door – a feature hidden until bingo signage was recently removed. Some rudimentary stage facilities reportedly still exist in void areas behind the current stage. It closed as a bingo hall in 2006, with the company operating it blaming the smoking ban which had just been introduced in Scotland that year. Despite being listed as recently as May 2007, less than a year later, the council and their developing partners have purchased the building with the intention to demolish it, and build a new library, museum and elevated walkway on the site, to better link the new Asda supermarket behind the building to the existing high street. The architect of some of the later alterations to the building is said to be Alister G. MacDonald (spelling of his forename varies!), son of former Labour prime minister Ramsey MacDonald, who was best-known for designing the newsreel cinemas in London’s Victoria and Waterloo stations, as well as the Elgin Playhouse and the Broadway in Prestwick.
More info and pics here:
Photograph at the top of this page here:
Exterior photograph here: