Blantyre Picture Theatre or Blantyre Picture House was often nicknamed as the Dookit.
The original name when it opened in 1913 was “Blantyre Picture and Variety Theatre.” It was later renamed as Blantyre Picture House. It was a former cinema on Glasgow Road. Not to be confused with the earlier Blantyre Electric Picture House (Fleapit) at the corner of Forrest Street.
E.H. Bostock, of circus family fame, owned it. The Blantyre Picture Theatre was constructed in 1913 on Glasgow Road near the corner of Alpine Street. It was the first cinema in the area to show reels of film and proved an instant hit with the entire population, young and old alike.
Built by EH Bostock, it proved an important local role in the first world war in keeping people informed, visually what was happening in the Great War. It housed 850 seats. The ventilation windows in the projector rooms made the outside of the building look like a dovecot and the building soon had the local nickname “The Dookit”.
In 1926, during the General Miners Strike, the Picture House supplied some meals to the miners. From 29th May 1929, it was contracted out to LCV Circuit who embraced new technologies such as “talkies” or movies with sound although it was noted at that date it was still awaiting suitable technology to be installed. It was leased to Mr. Leslie Lynn on 30th September 1930 who properly ushered in the era of talking movies in Blantyre. It had telephone number Blantyre 29. The cinema served Blantyre well and was popular even when a second cinema arrived in 1939.
During the mid 20th Century, Mr. Thomas Eadie was a projectionist, who lived at Hawthorn Place. In the late 1940’s and early 1950s, the picture house was owned by enterprising couple Mr and Mrs Brown, who also owned the “Daisy Brown Dance School” to the immediate western (left) side of the building. However, by the late 1950’s and with grander picture houses opening nearby in Hamilton, the cinema started to fall into decline (perhaps through its age and facilities).
The attendant who would guide you to his seat was known as Jimmy “The Brick” McCallum (named after a comic book character of the time), a man all children feared. Shining a torch in your face if you were misbehaving was apparently the norm.
Other stories I’ve heard about this building is how children would stamp their feet in excitement when the “goodies chased the baddies” and the noise of crisp bags popping every minute.
In the late 1950’s, it was taken over by carpenters. Ian Little, and Wullie Paul, a partnership, owned the company. They used it as their workshop. (They also built a few houses near the steel houses in High Blantyre towards the end of broompark road towards the Cawther.) They also proposed and set up a new venture around 1950 and into the 1960’s as an indoor bowling alley, and as a live acts venue. However, it closed shortly after and today is no longer there.
Who remembers the Dookit?