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15 utterly unique cinemas in Scotland you need to visit

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Mareel - the UK's most northerly music, cinema and creative industries centre, Lerwick, Shetland

Mareel, the UK’s most northerly cinema and creative arts centre, Lerwick, Shetland

Take a break from your soulless local multiplex with and discover the warm, dark embrace of the independent cinema. Scotland has an impressive cinematic heritage that is matched by our insatiable appetite for all things celluloid. So it comes as no surprise to discover just how many unusual Scottish cinemas there are out there. From beautiful period buildings almost as old as cinema itself to a travelling pop-up, discover a movie venue with a difference this autumn.

1. The Hippodrome

Step back in time to the dawn of motion pictures at this gorgeous Art Deco building located in the sleepy town of Bo’ness near Edinburgh. Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema, the Hippodrome was restored to its original glory in 2009 and now boasts a state-of-the-art sound system and projectors. In honour of this unique status it hosts its own Festival of Silent Cinema every year.

10 Hope Street, Bo’ness, Falkirk

2. Dominion Edinburgh

Ever dreamt of owning your own private cinema in the comfort of your own home? Make that dream a reality for one night only at the Dominion Edinburgh. Recline in the luxuriant black leather armchairs which adjust at the touch of a button in the exclusive Red Star Screening Room.

Newbattle Terrace, Edinburgh  

3. Birks Cinema

Another white-washed Art Deco gem situated in the delightful Perthshire village of Aberfeldy, Birks Cinema underwent an intensive seven year restoration to return it to as it was during its 1930s hayday. Opened by local boy and Hollywood star Alan Cumming in 2013, the cinema has swiftly re-established itself as cultural heart of this tight-knit community. Enjoy lovely touches like the two-seater “Chummies” seats at the back where you can snuggle up with your significant other.

1 Dunkeld St, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

4. Discovery Cinema

A nostalgic throwback to when Rothesay was a wildly popular holiday destination for Victorian holidaymakers, it is a little known fact that tucked behind Rothesay Winter Gardens lies the bijou Discovery Cinema. Join the Bute Film Club here during the winter for art-house screenings.

Victoria St, Rothesay, Isle of Bute

5. Mareel

It’s not often you step out of a cinema to see seals swimming or seabirds fishing, but you can at  Mareel in Shetland. Overlooking Lerwick’s waterfront, this strikingly designed purpose-built arts centre is the most northerly of its kind in the UK. It also plays host to the annual Screenplay festival curated by esteemed film critic Mark Kermode and film historian Linda Ruth Williams.

North Ness, Lerwick, Shetland  

6. The Cameo

Exuding a faintly grandiose opulence more befitting an opera house than a cinema, a trip the Cameo is always a treat. One of the first places in the city to expose post-war audience to the exotic world of foreign cinema, it remains a firm favourite among film buffs including Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino.

38 Home St, Edinburgh

7. Glasgow Film Theatre

Housed inside a distinctly windowless building, the Glasgow Film Theatre occupies a special place in Glasgow’s cultural history. The first purpose-built arts cinema in Scotland, the ‘GFT’ as it is affectionately known, is home to a thriving community of dedicated cinephiles and the ever-growing Glasgow Film Festival.

12 Rose Street, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

8. West Side Cinema

An island setting, candle-lit tables, and the hushed atmosphere of a former church – you don’t get a much more intimate cinema-going experience than at West Side Cinema. As well as screening short films alongside every feature one, this volunteer-run cinema is dedicated to unearthing hidden gems that ordinarily go unnoticed by audiences. A must for the discerning film lover.

Stromness Town Hall, Victoria Street, Stromness, Orkney

9. Screen Machine

A pop-up cinema unlike any other, Screen Machine is an 80-seat, air conditioned mobile cinema which brings Holywood to the Highlands and other remote locales and rural areas of Scotland, touring more than 40 communities for ten weeks at a time.

Highlands and Western Isles

10. Belmont Filmhouse

Situated on one of Aberdeen’s trendiest streets, you wouldn’t think to look at the Belmont Filmhouse’s modest entrance that it contains a three-screen cinema and café-bar. Proudly alternative, it offers choice of films that is as eclectic as its popcorn flavours. Goat’s cheese and pepper anyone?

49 Belmont St, Aberdeen

11. New Picture House

At the one and only cinema in St Andrews you can enjoy a film from the best seats in the house – the front of the balcony. Built in 1931, the New Picture House is more like a theatre than a cinema. But while it retains many of its period features, it doesn’t scrimp on modern comforts or conveniences, including spacious, electronically adjustable seating and automated ticketing machines.

117 North St, St Andrews, Fife

12. Perth Playhouse

The Perth Playhouse was built way back in 1933 in what was believed to be a record-breaking nine weeks. Although it has since been redeveloped to hold seven screens including an IMAX – the first independent cinema in the UK to have one – it is still brimming with plenty of character. Thanks in no small part to the adjoining City Café with its hip décor and excellent selection of craft beers and coffee.

6 Murray St, Perth

13. Oban Phoenix Cinema

The community-owned Oban Phoenix Cinema is labour of love for the people of Oban. Dismayed at the closure of the Highland Theatre in 2010, the community, backed by the star power of Judi Dench, Tilda Swinton, Robbie Coltrane and others, launched a campaign to have it converted into a cinema. It now boasts a sleek, modern auditorium equipped with and first-class sound and lighting system as well as digital projection in 2 and 3D. Not bad for a wee picture house!

140 George St, Oban, Argyll

14. St Ninian’s Hall Cinema

Scotland’s most southerly cinema isn’t a cinema in the traditional sense. Held in the town hall of the Isle of Whithorn, this community cinema is funded and organised by Machar Movies with screenings held fortnightly each Saturday from September to April.

Isle of Whithorn Village Hall, St Ninians Terrace, Isle of Whithorn, Newton Stewart

15. Campbeltown Picture House

Currently undergoing an ambitious restoration, Campbeltown Picture House is set to be resurrected as one of Scotland’s finest picture palaces when it reopens in the spring of 2017. Boasting a striking Glasgow School Art Nouveau edifice, its interior is a rare example of the ‘atmospheric style’ that was fashionable in the early 20th century. Moviegoers can look forward to watching a film in auditorium meticulously created to resemble the courtyard of a medieval castle with a starry sky in place of a ceiling.

26 Hall Street, Campbeltown, Argyll

Scotland’s cinemas are among some of the most interesting and significant architectural works in the country. Explore more of Scotland’s rich built heritage during the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016.

Going to cinema is great. But don’t spend all your time glued to the big screen. Get your cultural fix at these other great attractions and actually visit the places in Scotland made famous by film. Learn more about how Scotland has been used as a film and TV location and start planning a jet-setting break today.

Comments

  • Arran Crew

    You seem to have forgotten about the Screen Machine!

    https://www.screenmachine.co.uk

    • We wouldn’t forget the Screen Machine – it’s listed at number 9! 👍

  • Marie

    You left out Filmhouse! Miles better than Cameo in terms of film variety, and hosts Film Festivals all year round, including Edinburgh International Film Festival.

  • Steve

    The chalmers filmhouse in Arbroath deserves a mention too – all sofas and beanbags and great for kids.

  • Genni Poole

    Greetings, for information regarding The Cameo, Edinburgh: This was the first Arthouse cinema in Scotland and the first in Edinburgh (the second in the whole of Scotland) to screen foreign language films (known in the 1940s as “continental” films). It was met with curiosity and suspicion by the local community but quickly gained popularity and soon had queues snaking around the block. Today, much of its original architecture remains (particularly in Screen One) and some of the early decorative features have been saved, such as the cameo-etched mirror, art deco lights and clock. The cinema was bought by Jim Poole in 1947 as the much-delapidated King’s Cinema. After two years of careful renovation and upgrading to luxury standards, it reopened as The Cameo in March 1949, Today it continues to offer a unique cinema-going experience: arthouse and mainstream films and film events in characterful and tasteful surroundings.

  • James Scott

    Greeting from Helensburgh and Scotlands newest digital cinema. After losing its cinema almost 40 years ago, the town that gave the world John Logie Baird got two new screening rooms as part of its new Arts Centre. Located in the heart of the town the centre it’s a local charity run by volunteers who have converted a church built in 1861 by William Spence (Scotland pre-eminent theatre architect). Aside from run the latest releases, the centre is a digital capture centre for live events and hosts satellite events from across the world. The centre runs novel live events, is the cultural hub for the town and a learning centre for creative and technology courses. To see what’s on see http://www.HelensburghBoxOffice.com

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