Cinemas of Edinburgh past and present

Cinemas of Edinburgh past and present


Scotland has had a love affair with cinema since the very first screening in 1896 at the Empire Palace Theatre (which later became the Festival Theatre). Now, more than 120 years later going to the movies is a very different experience and the art of creating motion pictures has changed almost beyond recognition.


Along the way, Scotland has produced some incredible actors who have graced the silver screen, including Katharine Hepburn, Sir Sean Connery, Errol Flynn, Orson Welles and Ewan McGregor.


Yet it has to be said that it isn’t all good news. While Scotland has shown an appreciation for all things cinematic, several of its greatest picture houses have been forced to close as the decades have gone by, including many fine examples in Edinburgh itself.


In this article we look at some of the cinemas of Edinburgh’s past – and highlight a selection of picture houses that are still in use and within easy reach of the residents here at Quartermile’s luxury apartments.


Poole’s Synod Hall, Castle Terrace

This historic venue first began life as a picture house in 1906, courtesy of the Poole family. The former church later began showing talkies in 1926 – thought to be the first to do so – before developing a reputation for showing cowboy and horror films in the 50s and 60s. 

Sadly, the picture house made way for a concert hall in 1965 before being redeveloped again to its current guise as a large office complex.


Odeon, Clerk Street

A fine example of art deco design, the Clerk Street Odeon was at the heart of Edinburgh’s cinema scene between 1930 and 2003. Until 1965 when it was first branded as the Odeon, this cinema was actually known as the New Vic.


During the 1970s the art deco building also doubled up as a music venue, with the likes of AC/DC, The Who and The Kinks performing in front of packed auditoriums. And while the Odeon has been scheduled for demolition several times in the 13 years since it closed, this beautiful piece of architecture has so-far escaped the wrecking ball.


ABC Regal, Lothian Road

Another cinema to host bands and live shows was the Regal. Built not long after the Odeon in 1938, it retains the status of having been the only venue to host the Beatles – who played back-to-back shows in April and October of 1964. With a capacity of 2,700 the cinema welcomed millions of customers through its doors over the years until it was demolished in 2001.


Where to go now


Filmhouse Cinema

For all the latest arthouse releases, showings of old classics and the odd foreign film, look no further than the Filmhouse Cinema on Lothian Road. Originally built as a church in the 1930s (not unlike the story behind Poole’s), it was converted into a cinema in the 1970s by the Waters Jamieson Partnership. Designed by David Bryce, this is a gem of a venue and features three screens and a cool café-bar.


Vue Omni Centre

If you’re looking to keep it mainstream, head to the Vue at Leith Walk to see all the latest releases in their Technicolor glory. Of the 12 screens in this 2,188 capacity cinema, two are 3D for those days when you want your movie to be that bit more immersive.


Cameo Cinema

One of the oldest cinemas in Scotland that’s still standing, the Cameo (formerly known as The King’s) has been around since 1914. The three screens show a combination of old and new movies, with a healthy rotation of cult classics alongside some arthouse gems. To make things even better, the seats are comfortable and the bar is well stocked, making it a pleasure to hang out here.



Wish you lived within easy reach of these Edinburgh cinemas? Why not make the move to Quartermile’s luxury apartments in 2017? Find out more by booking an appointment today 0845 000 2525.

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