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Lanark Cinemas

Regal / Vogue
Bannatyne Street

Lanark’s 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 Monkey Business and The Bohemian Girl, 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

Opening Group

Exterior, 1937

Telegram - Laurel & Hardy

Telegram - Bebe Daniels

Exterior, 1953
Archive images courtesy of Mike Lee [Son of the original manager]

Opening Brochure
(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 above this, three large windows provided a birds-eye view of the station for patrons of the café. The centre window was wider than the two flanking 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 unusual 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 had the triangular-focussed terrazzo floor, with a central staircase leading to the café 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 Scala. 

Decorative panel detail

Lighting feature
Archive 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 carpet.

Upstairs off the balcony foyer, a café overlooked the stairs with a 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, reflecting the 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 double chevron pattern.  Above the balcony, the ceiling was slightly raised, with a flat, angular vault rather than a barrel-vault, with a large, rectangular grill recessed in the centre, which would presumably once have 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.

Bingo has 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 came 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 was  required was 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.

Sadly the film shows did not prove a resounding success, and as of April 2007, they have been reduced to the cinema being available to hiring for private showings. The building was listed Category C(s) by Historic Scotland in 2008.

A full gallery of photos of the Regal can be found here.

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.

Picture House / Rio

Part of Ormiston Circuit. s. 800. Sold to Gaumont, 3.28. Sold to independent, c. 1933. Ranamed Rio, c.1945. Cl. 6.60, gutted by fire. Demolsihed for Supermarket.
Picture courtesy of Bruce Peter.

Lanark Memorial Hall

Used for film shows in the 1990s, but these were not a success.
Selection of interior photos below courtesy Norrie Mcnamee.

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