Two very different venues in two very different places in Scotland had one-off cinema shows recently – in two very different ways.
Maryhill Burgh Halls
Although Maryhill Burgh Halls in the north of Glasgow was never a full-time cinema, it used to have regular film and variety shows for children at weekends as far back as 1910. Old plans from the 1940s show a ‘cinematograph box’ at the back of the balcony, and during recent refurbishment works, the original projection portholes were discovered.
Last week, as part of the West End Festival, Glasgow’s Grosvenor Cinema arranged for a proper Saturday morning film show to be held in Maryhill for the first time in decades – and the film chosen was The Muppets!
Very much in the tradition of film shows in public halls at the beginnings of cinema, a full 35mm projector was brought up and sat in full view at the back of the Hall, along with a widescreen built for the occasion. As well as showing the film, the Grosvenor team also took the opportunity to explain to a sell-out crowd of families and young children how cinema on film developed, and how it is now being replaced by digital projection. Popcorn was on sale, everyone got to take away a small piece of 35mm film as a souvenir, and even a certain Mr The Frog was in attendance, in the best seat in the house!
The kids were mesmerised both by the film, and by seeing the film moving through the projector from reel to reel, which together with the noise of the projector isn’t something they were used to experiencing.
The Alhambra has had a long cinema-going history – designed to be a live theatre, it actually opened as a full-time cinema in 1922, which is how it spent much of its life. Now reborn and serving Dunfermline as a hugely successful live theatre at long last, it too had a one-off return to cinema use when a sell out crowd of over 1200 people – probably one of the largest single cinema audiences for a film in Scotland in recent years! – packed the building to see The Happy Lands.
Unlike the Maryhill showing, the Alhambra was able to use its original projection room, way up at the back of the balcony, but instead of a projecting from film, the film was shown using one of the latest digital projectors. It’s interesting to note the difference in size between the small digital projector and the enormous film equivalent.
But regardless of whether its traditional film or digital, the fantastic thing is seeing the incredible response from both local communities to seeing cinema brought back to these historic and much-loved buildings – and if this level of enthusiasm continues, perhaps these One Night Only shows will end up leading to something more regular…
More about events at Maryhill Burgh Halls…
More about events at Alhambra Dunfermline…
Alhambra photographs courtesy of David Wardle.