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James McKissack - Cinema Architect
by Tom Widdows

0. Introduction
1. Early Works
2. The First Cinemas
3. The Search for Style: Cinemas of the 1920s
4. Art Deco and Jazz Moderne
5. Streamlining in the latter 1930s
6. New Design Directions: the Aldwych and Cosmo
7. Conclusion

Kingsway, Glasgow. 1929.


James McKissack was one of Scotland's most prolific cinema architects. McKissack’s designs, spread throughout Central Scotland, reflected every significant new trend in British cinema design, from the earliest cinemas of the Edwardian period, inserted into existing shop units, to the most glamorous ‘super cinemas’ of the late-1930s, and even include Scotland’s first specialist ‘art house’ cinema – the Cosmo [now GFT] in Glasgow. Notwithstanding having produced so vast and significant a body of work, the details of McKissack’s remarkable life have largely been forgotten by architectural history and the majority of his designs have long since been demolished.

By piecing together surviving fragments of information about his life and works, this article aims to tell the forgotten story of James McKissack – Cinema Architect.

Article ©2004, Tom Widdows. Archive photos courtesy Bruce Peter.
[N.B. - Comments in square brackets are editorial updates to the article]

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