Picture House

141 High Street,
Arbroath, DD11 1DP

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Picture House

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Royal Hotel was built in the 1850’s with a Renaissance style exterior. An auditorium was built at the rear, using a part of the hotel’s facade as an entrance. Seating 1,036 in stalls and circle areas, the auditorium opened in 1930 as the Picture House. It has a 40 feet wide proscenium.

The Picture House was still operating in 1966, but by the 1970’s it had closed and was in use as a bingo club. This use continues today as a Gala Bingo Club.

On 11th October 1971, Historic Scotland designated the Picture House a Grade B Listed building (mainly for the Royal Hotel facade).

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

garypainter on April 4, 2008 at 7:13 pm

Photograph at the top of this page here:

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alexbraid on June 30, 2009 at 1:12 pm

The Picture House had a long foyer stretching below the Royal Hotel with period film advertising boards displaying coming attractions attached to the walls on either side. A small central paybox faced patrons entering the building. The stalls were accessed through doors to left and right at the far end of the foyer. A sales kiosk was located just to the left of the balcony staircase. It was always stocked with a superb selection of confectionery, ices, drinks and cigarettes.(Smoking in all parts of the house in those halcyon days!) The auditorium, located behind the hotel, was unusual in that it was entered at the screen end. Square and very plain with no decorative features,(in contrast to Arbroath’s other cinema, the Palace), the auditorium nonetheless exuded an atmosphere of comfort and luxury. One large centrally mounted deco style ceiling light provided illumination. The screen drape was a one piece gold satin vertically rising festoon lit during intervals from various coloured footlights. The stage was very high, at least six feet, causing neck ache (I speak from personal experience) to front stalls patrons. The sightlines from the balcony were superb. The Picture House, together with it’s sister cinema The Regal, Broughty Ferry, was maintained to a very high standard by Arbroath Cinema Company, which was the first exhibitor in the county of Angus to install CinemaScope with four track magnetic stereo sound in the 1950s. Though the cinema entrance was fairly small and unimposing due to it’s location below an hotel, at night it was a local landmark. The Picture House sign was lit in red neon with a surrounding green neon border. Illuminated torches flanked the sign on either side. Internally lit showcases with film star portraits, posters and stills completed the scene. In 1968 Arbroath Cinema Company was taken over by Scottish cinema magnate J. B. Milne, his last aquisition before his untimely death at the age of 66 later that same year. Kingsway Entertainments who took over his circuit closed the Picture House in the early 1970s. It lay empty for several years until Kingsway moved their bingo operation from the Palais, James Street, (not to be confused with the Palace) into the former Picture House. It continues as a bingo hall today. The manager of the Picture House from the 1950s until it’s closure was Hugh Cunningham under whose supervision it provided Arbroath cinemagoers with entertainment and service standards comparable to any city centre circuit house. The Picture House was one of the last Scottish cinemas to use local billboard advertising throughout the town.

dirtyden on January 16, 2013 at 8:11 am

Hi found this site by accident Sorry alex but I disagree somewhat with comments about former Picture House.I was a (trained) projectionist at the Palace from 1963-1968. This was kept as the name implies! the ‘box’ while equipped with rather dated Ross projectors was kept immaculate. We would be on our knees on Friday nights between reels polishing the floor for example.The entrance foyer & vestibule area was high clean well lit & with a feeling of space! The Picture House on the other hand was decidedly dreich!!. It was rather dark as it lay in the shadows of near buildings. The interior lacked a decent house lighting system when the house lights were ‘up’.The balcony was a similar dark place.The gents toilets at the rear of the hall (which had only one WC) stunk!!It is still in this general condition for the patrons (bingo) as I have just retired after 11 years working there with Gala bingo.I feel the only thing saving it fron the developers is the rather silly B historic listing.In the void-roof space area the bricks are crumbling and the vestibule area into the hall has been plagued with rain water leaks.Yes I know it was built in 1930 but many cinemas were thrown up in that era with an understanding that they had a finite life.I have always had an interest in old cinema having spent all my teen days and over, working in one but I feel there are comments made about old halls viewd through tinted glass.Yes I recall Hugh Cunningham the manager he lived in a house to the rear of the hall just along the road from me. He could be very bad tempered at times esp with kids that lined up on the rare occasion when a kids film was showing. He would stand outside keeping them in line with a large stick!!! I was born & brought up in view of the rear of the Picture House. An old mate of mine who was also a projectionist was there the same time as I was at the Palace. I dont want to down anyones views about old cinema but there is more under the surface than is sometimes seen ! Regards

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