W E Trent of London with John Jerdan as executant architect, 1930.
Art Deco cinema comprising 2-storey, 5-bay, faience-clad, entrance front with deeply recessed doorway under projecting canopy and Art Deco tetrastyle Doric portico in antis at 1st floor; large, gabled brick auditorium to rear.
FRONT ELEVATION: 2 shallow steps to outer lobby recessed between outer bays; 4 pairs of late 20th century glazed doors; canopy overhanging pavement. Tetrastyle Doric portico in antis at first floor with Art Deco railings between columns, projecting modillioned cornice and stepped Art Deco pediment; single windows with Art Deco glazing to outer bays; 3 arched openings with Art Deco French Doors at rear of portico.
INTERIOR (seen 2012): some alterations (see Notes) but majority of original Art Deco decorative scheme still intact. Entrance Foyer: largely modernised, but some ceiling plasterwork survives above false ceiling; original tartan pattern terrazzo floor tiles survive under modern carpet. Inner Stalls Lounge: original decorative scheme largely complete with Ionic half-columns flanking doors, Art Deco over-door panels, radiator covers and plaster cornices. 1st Floor Tea Room: original decorative scheme largely complete with coffered ceiling, plasterwork and shallow arched recesses. Auditorium: divided into 4 sections but retaining most of original features including aedicules with one surviving statue by the sculptor Beattie, representing the Arts set between Ionic pilasters; decorative plasterwork; parts of the proscenium and two former private boxes. Plasterwork, Art Deco glazed doors and other original fixtures survive elsewhere, including light fittings.
Statement of Special Interest
Designed by the renowned cinema architect W E Trent and opened in 1930, as the New Victoria Cinema, this building is an outstanding example of an Art Deco cinema in Scotland and the United Kingdom. It is Scotland's best surviving example of a cinema from this period which includes a largely extant original interior decoration scheme. During the 1980s the original auditorium was divided up into several smaller auditoria, and a number of other alterations have been carried out (particularly in the entrance foyer). However, this work has been done in a largely reversible manner and most of the original decorative scheme has been retained, although some parts are currently concealed behind false ceilings and other additions.
The New Victoria Cinema was initially planned under the auspices of the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT), although by the time it opened the company had been taken over by the giant Gaumont British company. PCT had been founded in 1909 with the aim of providing a diverse chain of cinemas around Britain and were an unusually early example of a chain with national aspirations. PCT cinemas had luxuriously appointed interiors, central locations and ran continuous performances. In 1925 William Edward Trent was appointed as their chief architect, a position he retained under Gaumont.
Although W E Trent had designed very few cinemas prior to his appointment by PCT, he subsequently became one of the leading cinema designers in Britain, his works including a number of architecturally distinctive and lavishly appointed Gaumont Palace cinemas in England. Cinemas tended to be built by local architects and therefore examples in Scotland by leading English architects are very rare. The New Victoria cinema is the best (and only large-scale) example of a custom-built PCT/Gaumont cinema in Scotland and the best and most intact example of an acclaimed English architect's work in Scotland.
The interior and exterior treatment of the cinema is unusual, marking a transitional period in the work of W E Trent, the development of the PCT/Gaumont chain and the development of cinema design more generally. The external treatment is demonstrative of the emergence of Art Deco from the Neoclassical styling that had been popular in the 1920s. This is also evident internally, especially in the auditorium, which was designed to give the impression of an open-air Greek or Pompeian (contemporary accounts disagree) amphitheatre with a temple-style pediment framing the stage. This style is best described as semi-atmospheric.
Atmospheric cinemas were designed to give the audience the impression that they were sitting outside and were pioneered in America in the 1920s. The first examples in the UK were built from 1928, but they were not very common. The semi-atmospheric intention here, combined with Neoclassical and Art Deco detailing is highly unusual and was not repeated in any of the other PCT/Gaumont cinemas by Trent. The majority of other atmospheric cinemas built in Scotland have either lost their interiors or been completely demolished. Only one truly atmospheric cinema now survives in Scotland: the Picture House in Campbeltown (see separate listing) which has also been somewhat altered and was built on a much smaller scale than the New Victoria. No semi-atmospheric cinemas of comparable scale and style to the New Victoria survive in Britain.
List description revised and category changed from B to A, 2012.