Although there is evidence of “magic lantern” shows being held in Blantyre at Dixon’s Halls at Stonefield prior to 1900, Blantyre is known to have had seven proper cinemas, with only one still functional or present. Here are some little snippets taken from my forthcoming book. Full details on each cinema is available upon request.
1903: residents of Blantyre were first treated to silent movies at Hendersons Building on Glasgow Road, between Herbertson Street and Auchinraith Road in a rented co-op hall. The Co-op opened up at this location in 1885 and were responsible for bringing movies to Blantyre.
Then, in a quick succession fo cinemas opening;
1912: The Blantyre Electric Cinema opened in Glasgow Road across from this at the corner of Forrest Street. Nicknamed the “Fleapit” it was located on the upper storey of the 2 storey tenement above the Livingstonian Pub. The cinema burned down, the upper part of the building demolished.
1912: The Olympia Theatre of Varieties in Blantyre was owned around and opened in 1912 by Mr Hall Nicol, a Lanarkshire builder; He was a J.P. too and was well known throughout the Lanarkshire, building many houses. Now this theatre might have been the old theatre at Carrigans at Broompark Road (the old bakery) but is more likely to have been on the site of the old showground on Glasgow Road, and probably what would become E. H. Bostock’s Blantyre Picture House, aka the Dookit in 1913. The Olympia certainly was short lived and seems probable it did not exist beyond World War One. It would have shown silent movies.
1913: The Blantyre Picture House was built on the same former site of the Olympia. I was often nicknamed the “Dookit.” The original name when it opened in 1913 was “Blantyre Picture and Variety Theatre.” It was later renamed the Blantyre Picture House. It was a former cinema in Glasgow Road. During the mid 20th Century, Mr. Thomas Eadie was a projectionist, who lived at Hawthorn Place.
1917: From February that year, people could attend the Co-operative hall in the Co-op Central Premises at the junction of Herbertson Street and Glasgow Road to see silent movies at 6pm and at 8.30pm on a new cinematograph machine, with an entrance fee of 4d. It run for about 14 years before the ‘talkies’ put it out of the game (the Co-op couldn’t get silent films any more to fit the machine)
then, there was a bit of a gap until the arrival of the Broadway.
1939: The more modern Broadway cinema on Glasgow Road at the junction of Station Road opened. In the 1950’s the cinema adverts boasted of showing films on wide screens. The strapline in the adverts for the Broadway said, “Broadway – The House of Distinction”, perhaps a clear dig at being grander than the altenrtive Blantyre Picture House. It is said that the late Blantyre historian Neil Gordon who passed away in 2004, owned a ticket machine from the demolished cinema and he used to keep it in his shed. It was not ususual for 3 films to be shown each week.
2008: Finally, the Blantyre Miners Welfare Community Film Theatre opened at Calder Street, boasting an impressive 150 tiered , foldaway seats, which are just as useful for presentations as they are for screening the many films it has done, mostly for Blantyre’s children.
(c) 2015 “Blantyre Explained” book by Paul Veverka
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