431 Union Street,
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The Capitol Cinema opened at 3pm on Saturday 4 February 1933. Aberdeen’s ‘Cinema in Excelsis’ cost between 60,00 and 70,000 GB Pounds, of which an unheard-of 40,000 GB Pounds was spent on interiors alone.
A wide foyer, with elegant stairways leading down to the stalls foyer and up to the circle foyer and the lilac-black-and-gold restaurant seating 120 patrons on gold basket work chairs, discreetly but efficiently served by uniformed “nippies”(waitresses). A trio would entertain diners from the end-wall alcove, reflected in full-length rose-tinted mirrors on the opposite wall.
The 2,100 seater auditorium was unique in Scotland in being entirely illuminated by a Holophane system. The walls were oatmeal, the side organ grilles and proscenium covered in silver leaf, brought enchantingly to life by the constantly-changing, subtle coloured light playing on these surfaces from the coving around the proscemium, ceiling coves and the organ grilles. The main curtains in deep sea-green swept back to reveal a silver festoon curtain on which the footlights and battens threw even more dramatic colour effects. It was said that it took 48 hours for the colour combinations to repeat. The heart of this system was a room next to the projection box in which ranks of motorised dimmers whirred constantly as they faded the colours in and out.
Completing the lavish look was a Compton 3Manual/8Rank theatre organ, which rose from the orchestra pit to entertain audiences between films and stage turns. The Capitol Cinema was the only cinema in Aberdeen to boast full stage facilities.
Amazingly, the Capitol Cinema struggled on as a cinema, even putting on live shows from time to time. The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner and Neil Sedaka have played there. It barely made it into the current century, closing in 2001 to be sold and “redeveloped”, butchered, actually. The magnificent cafe is now a store and the auditorium is divided horizontally into a disco upstairs and bar/restaurant below. The organ grilles and proscenium arch have been retained and the Compton organ is still “in situ”. In theory, could be raised, but it would look mighty strange, stranded in the middle of the restaurant floor. The building stood empty and unused since 2008, and the auditorium was demolished in February 2014. The façade will be saved.
On 26th May 1977, Historic Scotland designated the Capitol Cinema a Grade B Listed building.
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