|Opened 1929 by AB King seating 1,469. Destroyed by a
fire during an evening performance, March 1972. CAC appealed against
refusal of demolition, 1983.
Gallery of photos courtesy Derek Mathieson
Allan Goodall remembers:
"I started my career as an apprentice projectionist at the Playhouse in 1966 at 15 years of age. The Playhouse was the luxury cinema in Inverness. It started life in 1929 and was one of the first cinemas to be built for sound. My memory may be vague but it was originally going to be a theatre until talkies came out and it was decided it was to be a cinema instead. The design of the building gave it the look of a theatre - especially with the three box seats on each side of the balcony and one on either side of the stage. Occasional live shows were held there and of course after the Empire closed the Playhouse staged the annual Inverness Opera Company production. The sightlines were perfect from any seat for both films and live shows.
The screen frame and speakers could fly and this was done every Monday evening at the end of the last show so that the cleaners could give the stage a good clean. Jimmy Nairn the manager was a stickler for cleanliness, he would occasionally place small value coins under the aisle carpets so, if the cleaners tried to sweep dirt under the carpet, they would find the coin and sweep under all the carpet to see if they could find any more! Jimmy Nairn assured me that it worked.
After the Empire closed an Orchestra pit was built in front of the stage using materials from the one at the Empire, reducing the seating. I always remember the balcony seated 440 and as the total seating was reduced to 1314 , this would have left the stalls with 874 seats. The cinema had been equipped to play 4 track magnetic sound since 1954. The original equipment were Ross projectors, Western Electric Universal bases with the turntables mounted in the rear. The projector heads were changed also in 1954 to Kalee 21s. Then in 1968 the sounheads and amps were changed to Westrex 2000 and more modern Westrex amps and these remained in situ until the fire in 1972.
The projection room was in the void space under the balcony which gave you almost a direct 65ft throw with virtually no rake. When you looked down on the balcony it had a u shape cut out at the front centre for the beam - this apparently was originally going to be a spot room and the box was to be at the rear of the balcony. You can see this from the plans as there was a small box section in the rear with four rows of seats. The screen was approx 40ft wide with a deep curve. The curtains opened from the centre although the originals were festoon before scope. The tabs were lit top and bottom with foots and battens. There was a large dome which ran around the width of the ceiling and over the front balcony and front stalls. This was lit with 4 different colours, each colour could be dimmed separately - the same as the houselights. When the cinema opened there was a balcony foyer behind the box which was later turned into a cafe. For many years up to closure this was turned into a xmas fairyland every year, the walls adorned with cartoon characters, windmills and fountains were created - it had to be seen to be believed. All the work was done by Jimmy Nairn who was a very inventive and talented man. This feature was really missed by the people of the highlands when the Playhouse was lost.
The Playhouse went on fire in March 1972 - the film showing at the time was "Le Mans" starring Steve McQueen."