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April 10, 2013

100 not out

Despite the seemingly unstoppable advance of the multiplex, an unlikely renaissance of local cinema is taking place. Usually driven by just a small group of enthusiasts, this ranges from a film night in the village hall to the sort of wonderful refurbishment project soon to be enjoyed by the folk of Aberfeldy. But special mention and pride of place has to go to the Picture House in Campbeltown – the oldest continuously run, purpose-built cinema in Scotland. Community run and 100 years old next month.


The A-listed Picture House in Campbeltown is an amazing survivor and holder of several records. It is now the oldest purpose-built cinema in Scotland still showing films, the only cinema in Scotland still with atmospheric-style decoration, and one of the few cinema buildings that remains undivided, allowing films to be seen from a choice of stalls or balcony. It also unusually has never had a name change!

The Picture House opened on 26th May 1913, the first cinema in the town. It was designed by prolific cinema architect AV Gardner (later to design such cinemas as the Grosvenor and the Kelvin, and better known now as one half of the partnership of Gardner and Glen) to seat 640.

His design for the building was quite unlike any other cinema building of the time, which, when viewed in plan projection, are clearly based around a series of concentric ovals, the highest and narrowest of which consisted of the projection box, with a larger oval below that at balcony level, with another curved frontage and foyer area below – the curved walls are very noticeable on the exterior facade, and, in another unusual touch, were mirrored on the back wall of the auditorium.

The Centenary Project will breathe new life into this historic building. The unique interior will not only be restored to its former glory but also thoroughly modernised to provide an exceptional night out. Comfortable seating and an expanded kiosk will enhance the ability to watch the latest digital technology, including live downloads of opera, drama and ballet etc. Exhibition areas will also be created to tell stories of Campbeltown’s interesting history.

For more information on the Centenary Project click here

Campbeltown Community Business Ltd was formed in September 1987 with the object of purchasing and refurbishing the cinema. It was created as a charity and a massive fundraising campaign followed which raised £38,000 in four months. This was then matched pound for pound by the Highland and Islands Development Board.

The Picture House was rewired and redecorated with new lighting. The refurbished seating was reorganised to provide better visibility and legroom, dramatically lowering the total capacity from 640 seats to 285.

This non profit making community business is the parent company that runs the commercially organised Picture House, which unlike its parent body can operate as a profit-making concern. The community business however is a charity and because of this, tax can be reclaimed on members’ subscriptions. This local support also attracts grants from public bodies and trusts, which in turn ensure that refurbishment can be addressed when needed.

Another objective of this community business is to create jobs and additional amenities. It currently employs two people full time and five part time. Through them and by using local traders over £50,000 is put back into Kintyre’s economy annually.