Albert Kinema

Mill Street,
Kirkwall, KW15 1NL

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Albert Kinema

In Kirkwall, in the Orkney Islands, the original Albert Kinema, the only cinema in the town, had been destroyed by a disastrous fire in May 1947.

However, the owner, Dougie Shearer, was quick to react. While discussions started about rebuilding the Albert Kinema, he took a lease on a Temperance Hall, that had been built towards the end of the 19th century, and that had been used as a Royal Navy Cinema during the war. Film shows therefore continued with minimal disruption.

Presumably he started with the Navy’s projection equipment. However, in 1951, in the certain knowledge that a purpose-built replacement for the Albert Kinema would be constructed, he acquired two new British Thomson Houston projectors. (These were, indeed, subsequently transferred to the new cinema.)

The task of erecting a new cinema was a frustrating one, as the authorities would not allow it to be built on the site of the Albert Kinema. But eventually a site was found, and the appropriately named Phoenix Cinema ‘arose from the ashes’ and opened in June 1955.

In the 1960’s the Temperance Hall was converted into the 324-seat Orkney Arts Theatre, but for live shows only, with no known cinema presentations.

That theatre closed on 30th August 2013, when it moved premises and became part of the new Kirkwall Grammar School development at The Meadow. There, the theatre re-opened, now called simply The Orkney Theatre, in January 2014. The new theatre was built with additional funding from the European Rural Development Fund and Orkney Island Council, and it is managed and operated on behalf of the people of Orkney by a charitable body.

In September 2014 the former Temperance Hall was offered for sale, for £78,000. At the time of my visit, in June 2016, it remained disused.

(This history has been largely sourced from ‘The Cinema in Orkney’ by Kenny Thomson, at scottishcinemas.org.uk.)

Contributed by David Simpson
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