Scottish Cinemas and Theatres

Glasgow Film Theatre / Cosmo Main Page

Glasgow Film Theatre / Cosmo
12 Rose Street, City Centre

Click here for a gallery of exterior photos

Opening in May 1939, the Cosmo cinema was the first purpose-built 'art-house' cinema to open outside of London. Designed as the flagship for the Singleton chain (which also included the Kingsway, Mecca and Riddrie cinemas in Glasgow), this 850-seater was prolific cinema architect James McKissack's final design before his death.

The building sits on a sloping site on Rose Street, and is set back from the existing building line. A large stepped tower advertises the cinemas presence to passers by in Sauchiehall Street.

Clad in brown brick with cream details, the massing of the tower and linear light wells are in contrast to the curving portions that mirror the shape of the auditorium within.

The foyer was originally double-height, with twin staircases leading to the balcony. Payboxes were situated to both the left and right, between the two sets of entrance doors. A small kiosk was situated at the back of the foyer, which was panelled in walnut. A large globe, set above the main rear stalls entrance, reinforced the international nature of the films being shown. A large cloakroom and luxurious ladies powder room were also provided.

The cinema was advertised under the slogan 'Entertainment for the Discriminating', with the cartoon character of the bowler-hatted Mr Cosmo a familiar sight in newpaper advertisments of the time.
In 1968, the foyer was dramatically altered to become single height, and a new bar was incorporated over it, in a style that matched the rest of the interior decoration very well. Part of one of the twin staircases was also removed at this point..

Click here for a gallery of foyer & cafe pictures

In 1973, the Cosmo was bought by the Scottish Film Council, who undertook major structural alterations. The auditorium was split, to form a large single screen upstairs, with the balcony extended fully forward and a new proscenium constructed.

Click here for a gallery of Screen 1 pictures

Much of the original decoration was retained, including the central light feature nicknamed 'Mr Cosmo's Bowler Hat', as well as the curving side walls and decorative covers to the ventilation system. As GFT Cinema 1, this area now seats 394 with 4 wheelchair spaces. The projection room for this screen is very flexible, and can show anything from 16mm to 70mm film. It is also the only remaining cinema in western Scotland with the capability to show 70mm.

Renamed the Glasgow Film Theatre - or as it's better known - the GFT - the building reopened to the public in May 1974.  At this time, the stalls space was used as an conference and exhibition area.  In 1986 the GFT became independant of the SFC, and in 1988, the building was B-listed by Historic Scotland.

In 1988, part of the original stalls space was converted into a second screen (currently seating 142 + 2 wheelchair spaces), and the rest into a cafe-bar, which in a nod to the cinemas past was named Cafe Cosmo.

The rake in Screen 2 runs in the opposite direction to that of the original stalls; it appears that this was necessary to be able to fit the new screen under the low ceiling formed by the original balcony. Screen 2 has its own projection room, positioned roughly where the original screen would have been.

Click here for a gallery of Screen 2 pictures

In 2005, despite strong competition from the nearby UGC, the GFT is thriving, and is without doubt the most pleasant place in Glasgow to go see a film on the big screen...


A 70mm projector salvaged from the ABC Sauchiehall Street is currently on display in the foyer.

Photos of the GFT from 2001 are available here

Click here for interior pictures c2002 courtesy of Emma Taylor

1980s photos courtesy of Chris Doak

1. One Hundred Years of Glasgow's Amazing Cinemas,
Bruce Peter, Polygon (1996), ISBN: 0748662103
2. James McKissack - Cinema Architect (1875-1940),
Tom Widdows, Unpublished Dissertation, Robert Gordon University (2003)
Many thanks to John Letham and the staff of the GFT for their time in showing us around the building.

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