Marco's Leisure Centre
71-75 Grove Street,
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Located in the West End district of Edinburgh, the original building on this site was demolished to make way for the New Pavilion Theatre, which opened in February 1897. It became the Prince of Wales Theatre early in 1906, but had been renamed the Alhambra Theatre by November 1906.
From November 1908 it was Pringle’s Picture Palace, showing only films, before reverting to live variety as the Garrick Theatre by January 1917. It retained that name until closure in 1921, following a major fire which led to the demolition of the auditorium.
Only the façade was retained. A bakery was built behind. This eventually became Marco’s, a much-loved sports bar and café regarded as an ‘Edinburgh institution’. According to Brian Hornsey’s booklet ‘Ninety Years of Cinema in Edinburgh’ Marco’s was home to a short-lived cinema. Unfortunately, no further details are provided, and I have no record of this in any of my cinema directories. Certainly film shows were not one of the attractions advertised on the façade when I visited in March 2006, although a function suite was on the list, so perhaps this was used for occasional film shows.
Marco’s closed in 2008 or 2009. Together with the other structures in this part of Grove Street, much of this was demolished around 2012 to make way for a block of student flats.
However, in 2014 a new, smaller, Marco’s Pool Hall and Pizza Bar opened. According to its website, the ground floor (“the old Marco’s”, in a space that was evidently not demolished) still features original brickwork and steel beams and is a throwback to its history, featuring memorabilia and memories from the original centre. Downstairs is said to be the complete opposite: a modern, futuristic, purpose-built pool hall (“the new Marco’s”).
(For the early history of this site I am indebted to Gordon Barr, of CTA (Cinema Theatre Association) Scotland, who directed me to Canmore (canmore.org.uk), the on-line catalogue to Scotland’s archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime heritage, compiled and managed by Historic Environment Scotland.)
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