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- Category: A
- Date Added: 15/11/1989
- Local Authority: Argyll And Bute
- Planning Authority: Argyll And Bute
- Burgh: Campbeltown
National Grid Reference
- NGRNR 72089 20360
- Coordinates172089, 620360
Albert V Gardner of Glasgow, 1913 with some surviving 1935 'atmospheric' interior details (see Notes). Important and rare purpose-built cinema with unusual Glasgow School Art Nouveau treatment characterised by particularly unusual oval plan form surmounted by projection room belvedere. Brick with roughcast harl, painted white. Red fish-scale tiles. Probably 1930s gabled annexe attached to right.
FURTHER DESCRIPTION: NE (HALL STREET) ELEVATION: Eliptical entrance tower section to centre; glazed screen at ground floor centre with 2-leaf etched glass entrance doors. Parapeted balcony above with 4 elliptical balusters, now enclosed by fixed, glazed screen wall. Horizontal brick bands to rear and sides of balcony area with green ceramic tile spacers. Above, wide-brimmed eliptical roof rising to oval projection room belvedere with horizontal glazed openings and tiled mansard. Outer bays pilastered with square ceramic tile to top of each vertical recess and pair of elliptical windows centred below eaves. Plain roughcast to rear and side elevations. ANNEXE: gable end to Hall Street, full width glazed entrance at ground floor with concrete steps. Timber and lead canopy over; elliptical window to gablehead.
Fixed 8-pane glazing to timber windows in pair of elliptical openings. Red fish-scale tiles, corrugated sheet roof over auditorium. Grey slate roof with timber bargeboards to annexe. Lead gutter at eaves of main elliptical roof, cast-iron gutters and downpipes elsewhere.
INTERIOR: auditorium with ashlar-effect tiling to walls and rendered pilaster strips; raked balcony and floor, curved ceiling over. Seating acquired from separate sources in late 1950s/early 1960s and recovered 1988/89. Flanking screen: to right, half-timbered 'wee house' decoration supported on corbels with pantile roof and castellated tower and to left, Spanish Classical style mission house. Fringed pelmet over screen. Multiple spotlights to ceiling. Elliptical projection room reached by vertical ladder through floor hatch.
Statement of Special Interest
The Campbeltown Picture House is an important and rare example of an early purpose-built cinema. It is one of the earliest surviving purpose-built cinemas in the UK and also the only example in Scotland of this first wave of cinema building still in use as such. Stylistically, the building is highly distinctive with a strong streetscape presence overlooking Campbeltown Harbour. The exterior treatment is Glasgow School Art Nouveau and it uses a combination of concentric ovals in plan form and multiple verticals to the principal elevation. The use of this style, including the use of roughcast harl, is very uncommon in cinema design. Its interior is of equal significance. It retains elements of a 1935 'atmospheric' refurbishment, undertaken by Gardner (the original architect). These alterations show an important developmental step within cinema architecture by inserting atmospheric scenery into the auditorium. Known locally as "wee houses", the pair of houses flanking the screen, one a Spanish mission style house and the other a half-timbered structure with pantile roof and castellated tower, are of particular interest and are probably the last of their type to survive in Scotland. The cinema is also one of the few cinemas whose interior remains undivided, allowing films to be seen from the stalls or balcony.
Renowned Glasgow-based architect, Albert Gardner specialised in cinema design, building more than 25 throughout Scotland during the early 20th century. The Campbeltown Picturehouse is one of only four of his cinemas surviving in some form and the only one currently still in use as such (2007). His design for the building was unique, based around a series of concentric ovals, the highest and narrowest of which consisted of the projection box, with a larger oval below at balcony level.
The Campbeltown Picturehouse was built as part of the first wave of British picture houses constructed after the Cinamatograph Act was passed in 1910. The act stipulated that the projection equipment had to be physically separated from the auditorium in order to protect the audience from the risk of fire, due to the flammability of nitrate film. Less than 10 purpose-built cinemas constructed in Scotland prior to the outbreak of the First World War are thought to survive. As a developmental stage within the history of this building type, these first purpose-built cinemas are of particular significance.
List description updated and category changed from B to A as part of the Cinema Thematic Study 2007-08.
Campbeltown Courier (26.5.1913). Norman S Newton 'The Wee Pictures - A History of the Picture House (Campbeltown) Ltd' (1989). Bruce Peter 'Clyde Coast Picture Palaces' (2000) p48. Frank A Walker 'The Buildings of Scotland - Argyll and Bute' (2000) p158. Further information courtesy of the Cinema Theatre Association.
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