Campbeltown Picture House is one of Europe's most historic cinemas - and one of the first to be purpose-built in Britain. It was returned to its former glory after a £3.5 million restoration, and reopened in 2017.
Campbeltown Picture House, one of Scotland’s earliest purpose-built cinemas, opened in 1913. Back then, the town was home to more than 40 whisky distilleries and there was plenty of money to build an elegant Art Nouveau structure created by the celebrated cinema designer Albert V Gardner.
Cinema flourished – the Picture House even acquired a bigger rival, The Rex – before going into decline towards the end of the last century. By the noughties, the Picture House was in a dire state. Its roof leaked, audiences had dwindled and the owners considered demolishing the building.
A breakthrough came in 2016 when a £3.5 million restoration and extension project got underway with the help of National Lottery funding.
The renovated, extended Picture House is an artful blend of old and new. The café, education rooms and second screen are additions, but the main screening room is a faithful reproduction of the ‘atmospheric’ style of décor popular in the 1930s.
“The Picture House is bang up to date, but the original ideas of the building are there,” explains Jane Mayo. “It’s not a museum, it’s a living being.”
As well as the movies it shows in its two screening rooms the Picture House now hosts live events including a comedy festival in November. Admissions totalled 33,500 in 2018 and the cinema’s owners are confident they can build a bigger audience.
“The locals love it, but we hope we’ll get to the point that it will help bring people to the town,” says Jane Mayo. “The word will go out that there’s great whiskey to drink and you can see a different film every day of your holiday.”
26 Hall St,
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