14 Orr Street,
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Previously operated by: Associated British Cinemas Ltd.
Firms: Frank Matcham & Company
Previous Names: Olympia Theatre of Varieties, Olympia Cinema
Located at Bridgeton Cross, an east end district of Glasgow. The Olympia Theatre of Varieties was typical of the Edwardian Baroque style variety theatres which were being built at the time. It opened on 18th September 1911 and had a seating capacity of 2,000 in orchestra stalls, dress circle and balcony. The Baroque style exterior in red sandstone, with its corner entrance and elaborate dome was designed by architect George Arthur & Son. The interior with its lavish plaster scrollwork was designed by noted theatre designer Frank Matcham & Company. It was equipped to show films from its opening.
In 1924 it was taken over by Scottish Cinema and Variety Theatres, later to become Associated British Cinemas(ABC), who would operate it for the remainder of its cinematic life. The variety acts were dropped and the Olympia became a full time cinema.
In 1938 its interior was considered ‘old fashioned’ for a modern cinema and it was gutted to have a new Art Deco style interior designed by Charles J. McNair and Henry F. Elder. There were troughs containing concealed lighting and decorative grilles on the splay walls beside the proscenium. The seating capacity was reduced to 1,689, with the removal of the balcony, and it re-opened on 21st November 1938.
The Olympia Cinema was re-named ABC in 1963 and was closed on 9th March 1974. The building stood empty and unused for over ten years and was converted into a bingo club from 1987. After County bingo operators closed it down it became a furniture store, but they moved out in 2000 and the building remained empty.
A tragic fire occurred in the front stalls of the building on 30th November 2004, when a man, who was sleeping rough in the building, was badly injured, and died of smoke inhalation after a few days in hospital. Damage to the building was contained mainly to the front left hand side of the auditorium. A year earlier, Glasgow City Council had approved plans to demolish the auditorium and build flats on the site, retaining the façade. Demolition began in June 2011. A new library, offices & media centre were built on the site, which use the original façade as their entrance.
On 23rd March 1977, Historic Scotland designated the façade of the Olympia a Grade B Listed building.
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