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Largs Cinemas

Purpose built cinemas began to appear in Scotland around 1910 and by 1920 there were 557 cinemas in Scotland. The cinema boom eventually reached Largs with its first cinema in 1912. We beleive there has been 6 cinemas operating in Largs over the last 100 years entertaining the good folk of Largs.

Largs Electric Picture Pavilion

The first cinema was opened in largs in 1911 in Stanlane Place. It was called the Electric Picture Pavilion. Built in 1910 and designed by James Houston the venue was operated by the Bridgend Picture House Company who later sold the premises to George Palmer in 1944.

After the cinema closed in 1952 it was bought by a Glasgow family and reopened as the Star Ballroom where it was a dance hall at night and restaurant during the day. Later it became the Star Bingo Hall.

For a period it was owned by the Clark Memorial Church and used as a general hall. Later it housed business offices and today it has been modernised into a private home.

A few years ago this home it was up for sale and various internal photos on the Right Move web site showed that the interior had been upgraded to a very high standard providing a beautiful luxury home. It was also interesting to note that the upgrade incorporated a private family cinema room within the home thus making it one of the oldest cinemas still in use in Scotland.

largs pavilion cinema
old pavilion cinema stan lane largs
stanlane cinema largs
A Pavilion advert from 1912
The Electric Picture Pavilion

The Picture House Waterside Street

picture house cinema waterside street largs
The first church on this site was built in 1780. In 1820 became the United Secession Church. In 1826 the original church was completely rebuilt on the same site with a new manse also being built next door. It had seating for 690 people and cost £750. In 1847 it became the United Presbyterian Church and finally the Church of Scotland. In 1892 the congregation moved to the new Clark Memorial Church.

Later it became a public hall. On Thursday August 24 1911 Mrs Pankhurst the Suffragette leader visited Largs on a speaking tour of Scotland once used it to deliver a speech on votes for women.

In 1913 it was converted to a cinema known as The Picture House and later renamed as The George after George Palmer took ownership. It hosted the first talky movie in Largs.

In 1991 it became Narducci Auction Room, today is the Narducci Antiques and has appeared on day time TV a few times recently as a location for BBC show Bargain Hunt.

The Victoria Electric Theatre and Royal Animated Picture Palace

largs victoria cinema
Nelson Street once had its own picture house with rather grand name of the Victoria Electric Theatre and Royal Animated Picture Palace.

An advert in the Largs and Millport Weekly News read. "A special programme of up-to-date Pictures will be selected twice weekly to suit all classes. The Management are sparing no expense in refurnishing and redecorating the Hall, which has now been fitted up with a grand raking floor, tip-up chairs, and will be illuminated with Electric Light throughout. A large staff has been engaged; and the Theatre will be the coolest in Scotland, as it is the best ventilated Electric Palace on record."

Prices for the movies were 3d, 4d and 6d. The proprietors were listed as Messrs Hodges and O'Brien, and the grand opening night was on Monday June 24, with performances at 7pm and 9pm, and a children's matinee on Saturdays. The silent movies which were listed included The Tramps Gratitude, Painter and the Pigs, and Spanish Love Song for the opening night.

However things did not go according to plan. There was no more news of the Nelson Street cinema until the Largs and Millport Weekly News edition of July 13. Under a special notice to residents and visitors the advert stated "The Management beg to be excused for the failure of the first performance on Wednesday night., but have pleasure in announcing that everything is now in perfect order ,and they hope to receive a share of patronage. Everything will be done to please all classes, to roll up and pay as a visit."

Source: Largs and Millport News, June 2012

Later the Victoria Hall was used for function's such as wedding receptions.

The image left is an advert from 1912.

The Barrfields Cinema

old largs cinema at barrfields

The 1000 seated Barrfields Pavilion was built as a Public Hall and Theatre in 1930. In the 1970s a projection room was built in place of the gallery seating level reducing numbers to 500, allowing cinema shows to take place in the theatre.

In the 1990s a leisure centre and visitor attraction was added onto the Pavilion and named the Vikingar.

In 2002 the cinema finally closed to the Pavilion leaving the building as a Hall and Theatre. However, the new Vikingar building has a small 80-seater video theatre called the Valhalladrome. It is also used for smaller public lectures. It is not a film projection just video and DVD playing equipment. Its is still in use by the Largs Film Society.

In 1995 a member of the Old Largs team recalls going to see the Mel Gibson Braveheart movie in the Barrfields Cinema. The screen was located on the stage in the main hall. Being a rather long movie at 2 hours 58 mins which also included a 30 min interval it was a rather long and painful experience having to suffer the hard Barrfeild portable seats. At least the 30 minute break afforded an oppertunity for a quick refreshment at the Queen's Hotel. The Barrfield Cinema sound quality in those days was not very good at all. The picture quality was not much better however these were the days before Hi Definition. Despite all the hardships it was still a great treat to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster movies in your home town.

Top image on the right is the old Barrfeilds prior to its refurbishment.

new barrfeilds largs

The Viking Cinema

The Viking Cinema on Irvine Road was opened by the Earl of Glasgow (the father of the current Earl) on the 23rd June 1939 and enjoyed a 46 year career in providing movie entertainment to the good folk of Largs.

It was built by the Bridgend Picture House Company and was designed by James Houston. James was also the designer of the Radio City Cinema in Kilbirnie and was one of the directors of the Bridgend Picture Company.

It housed 1,300 seats and a cafe. Prices were 6d and 1s for a feature movie.

The Viking was later sold to George Palmer who by that time owned a chain of 30 other cinemas including the Largs Picture Pavilion in Stanlane Place and the Largs Picture house in Waterside Street.

Out of all the establishments Mr Palmer owned it has been reported that Mr Palmer had the greatest affection for the Viking Cinema which he described as 'the jewel in the crown' and when any new cinematic improvements came along such as the widescreen or a new sound system the Viking would have it installed first much to the delight of the locals.

old viking cinema largs
A picture of the Viking Cinema taken not long after it opened in 1939. The movie Climbing High can be seen advertised. This was a 1938 British comedy film directed by Carol Reed. It stars Jessie Matthews and Michael Redgrave. it was first released in the U.K. in November 1938.

 

 

At the front of the Cinema housed a replica Viking long boat. A reference to the Battle of Largs. Protruding from the front was the front half of a Viking ship, prow facing the sea.f a Viking ship projecting forwards towards the street. Patrons entered between buttressed walls beneath battlements and a portcullis which advertised the cinema’s films on show.programme. They could be shut over the doors for security at night. The interior decor of the cinema depicted fierce viking warriors, and references to the Battle of Largs. The walls were painted in red, white and blue and there were murals showing scenes of the battle in the auditorium.

The Viking boat was built by a firm of Gourock yacht builders, James Adam & Son. It was to represent the for the prow of Hacon's galley. It stood about 12 feet high with a beam of 10 feet and was positioned in a pool of water.

viking cinema largs
viking cinema largs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Viking ran as a cinema until 4th August 1973 when it was sold to local restaurateurs as a drinks bottling warehouse. Viscount Patrick Boyle led a campaign to re open the Viking as a luxury cinema but there was not enough financial support for this idea. The Disney Movie Sleeping Beauty was the last feature to appear at the cinema. Only 20 Largs folk bothered to turn up for that screening.

George Palmer the owner stood in front of his cinema at that screening. He never gave up hope of salvaging his Largs cinema. What was hailed as the luxury super cinema of 1938 had fallen victim to the general decline in interest of cinema in the early 1970's. By then it was reported the paintwork of the Viking had faded and the upholstery was worn and thin.

It was eventually demolished in 1983 and the Homemount House McCarthy and Stone retirement development was built on the ground. Unfortunately when the cinema was demolished the boat was allowed to deteriorate and finally left to fall apart in Millport. A sad end to such a special building

And Last of all

In the 1920s two Glasgow businessmen ran a cinema in the Old Artillery Hall on Brisbane Road. This building was built in 1875 as a drill hall for the local territorial unit. It was also made available for other organisations and regular dances, concerts and sports activities took place there. Apparently the cinema was not very popular as the projection equipment broke down regularly. Before the building was demolished it was used by the Social Security, who had to move into a porta cabin when demolition began. New flats were built on the site in 2016.