Regal Cinema was built opposite the railway station, in the eastern
half of the ancient Royal Burgh, on the site of an existing garage. It opened on the last day of August,
1936, with the films Manhattan
, the latter starring Laurel and Hardy. The
opening ceremony was performed by Lord Dunglass, a title held at the
time by Alec Douglas-Home, who would later briefly serve as British
Prime Minister from 1964-65. The original manager, George Lee, stayed in the post until 1961.
Lord & Lady Dunglass
Telegram - Laurel & Hardy
Telegram - Bebe Daniels
Archive images courtesy of Mike Lee [Son of the original manager]
(Courtesy of Mike Lee)
|The cinema was built for a syndicate of local business interests, whose
directors included the ubiquitous Sir Alexander B. King, who took such
a role in many cinemas all over Scotland (see the Prestwick entry for
more detail on AB King).
The architect was Lennox
D. Paterson, who joined his father Gavin’s
all-purpose practice to design various residential, commercial and
public buildings, largely in the area now covered by South Lanarkshire.
Neither Lennox nor his father were cinema specialists, but the handful
which the younger Paterson went on to design were, nonetheless, almost
always solid, modern designs.
Lanark was possibly his first stand-alone cinema, but his finest was
perhaps the George in Bellshill, started in 1938 but not completed
until 1951, due to wartime restrictions.
Other cinemas he worked on
include the Clydebank
La Scala and the Regal in Shotts, as well as alterations to the Avenue/Victory
in Whiteinch. All the others bar Clydebank have been demolished, and
even that has been heavily altered.
|In Lanark, he
had an unusual site plan to work with to create this
1,316-seater. The entrance was converted from an existing office block between two older, low
buildings, and was a very modest two-storey affair, the height of which
formed a link between the lower building to the left and the slightly
higher one to the right. At the ground floor, a central entrance was
reached by a set of terrazzo steps, flanked on either side by two small
shop units, whose frontages were almost entirely glazed. Two small
poster frames flanked the outer edge of the shop units, whose entrances
were actually within the curtilage of the cinema foyer.
Above the entrance,
a very slender canopy ran the full width of the façade, and
three large windows provided a birds-eye view of the station for
patrons of the café. The centre window was wider than the
windows, and they were framed by light stonework, upon which a neon
name sign sat above the windows.
Inside the entrance, after
the shop doorways, a set of outer doors (since removed) led to an
long corridor, again with terrazzo floor, which was decorated with a
triangular pattern as it reached the central paybox at the inner doors.
A separate entrance to the cafe lay to the left. Patrons entered
through the glazed double doors with chrome fittings
on either side of the paybox and into the inner foyer. This area again
triangular-focussed terrazzo floor, with a central staircase leading to
and balcony foyer, flanked on either side by a few steps up
to the stalls foyer (although the left-hand entrance to this has since
been blocked). Proceeding up the steps, the remains of a sweet kiosk is
situated directly behind and underneath the balcony stair.
The stalls foyer itself is an unusual shape, being tucked in behind the
curved rear wall of the stalls themselves, and the straight back wall
of the auditorium block. Fluted pillars support the ceiling here,
similar to those Paterson placed in the foyer of the Clydebank La
photographs show that the Regal's foyer areas were
originally decorated with typical deco furniture, either rattan or
tubular-steel framed chairs, wood and chrome planters, glazed light
fittings, pictures of movie stars and an elegantly fan-shaped patterned
Upstairs off the balcony foyer, a café overlooked the stairs
geometrically-patterned open balustrade, now replaced by a
partially-glazed wall. An enormous vertical light fitting hung above
the stairway. The café itself is again unusually-shaped,
wider area available towards the rear of the foyer block, and extending
forward all the way to the street at first floor level. In later years,
this area was run as a separate concern from the cinema, most recently
as a Chinese restaurant. It is currently disused.
The main balcony
foyer was a long, narrow space, edged with the same fluted pillars as
the stalls foyer, and leading to a vestibule outside the central
balcony vomitory entrance. A notable feature of this vestibule was an
octagonal dome feature in the ceiling, with a crimped inner edge and
concealed lighting. Several 1930s painted decorative panels survive in
the balcony foyer.
Inside the auditorium, the wide proscenium arch was framed with simple
linear banding, whilst
the curving splay walls were adorned with a series of slim horizontal lighting
troughs with rounded ends, which got progressively longer as they decended, creating a
fantastic focus on the proscenium. The screen itself was behind two
sets of curtains, the outer set having a festoon arrangement. An
internally illuminated clock was found on each side of the front stalls
exits, one of which is still in working condition.
The front half of the main ceiling was
barrel-vaulted, punctuated by shovel-shaped light
fittings as well as ventilation grills decorated with a
pattern. Above the balcony, the ceiling was slightly raised,
flat, angular vault rather than a barrel-vault, with a large,
rectangular grill recessed in the centre, which would presumably once
been internally illuminated.
Despite the inevitable takeover by bingo in the 1970s, the Vogue, as it
was then known, retained its rather elderly projection equipment, and
still showed occasional films right up until the late 1980s. The last
film is said to have been Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
in 1987, and
this is borne out by the fact that much of the decaying print still
sits in a jumbled pile on the projection booth floor –
perhaps evidence of the antiquity of the (still in situ) projection
equipment by that stage! The alterations for bingo were minor, with the
front stalls seating being replaced with tables, and a new office and
sales kiosk erected in the rear stalls.
continued in the Regal/Vogue, with manager Martin Carroll
taking over a few years ago. When the smoking ban was introduced to all
enclosed public places in Scotland in March 2006, the bingo business
appeared to be the worst affected of all licensed premises, and many
halls, some only a few years old, closed.
Rather than just accept the
downturn in trade, Martin Carroll decided to explore other options, and
has come up with the idea of returning film to the Regal on a part time
basis, a neat reversal of the process of cinemas becoming bingo halls
in the 60s and 70s!
With the balcony still retaining its
original cinema seating, all that has been required is a thorough
spring clean and some maintenance to the lighting troughs, many of
which amazingly required only some new bulbs to return them to
operation! It has not yet been decided whether to opt for digital or
35mm projection, but the opportunity to view films in a fantastic
example of an undivided 1930s cinema is one not to be missed.
remains for the manager to find a new location for his drum kit, since
the disused balcony foyer had been serving him well for drum practice
without having to worry about annoying the neighbours!
A full gallery of photos of the Regal can be
Many thanks to manager Martin Carroll for his time and enthusiasm when
showing us around the building.
Keep an eye on our Updates
page for details
of future film showings here.