The Ascot Cinema, a remarkable example of Art Deco magnificence, opened its doors on December 6, 1939, featuring Gracie Fields in “Shipyard Sally.” Built by Great Western Cinemas, the theater changed hands over the years, eventually being rebranded as the Gaumont in July 1950 under Gaumont British Theatres Ltd. It then became part of the Rank Organisation and was renamed the Odeon in May 1964. After closing its doors on October 25, 1975, the building remained vacant until 1979 when it was converted into a County Bingo Club. Designated a Grade B Listed building by Historic Scotland on July 10, 1989, the Ascot Cinema faced challenges during its redevelopment. However, the architects successfully preserved the Art Deco facade while blending it with new construction elements. Although the auditorium was demolished in 2001, a new development named “The Picture House” emerged in its place, comprising luxury apartments that pay homage to icons of the silver screen. This article explores the remarkable transformation of the Ascot Cinema, its historical significance, and the architectural accolades it has garnered.
Delayed Opening and Wartime Preparations:
The Ascot Cinema, designed by McNair & Elder, experienced a setback due to the outbreak of the Second World War. Despite the delay, the cinema’s grand opening finally took place in December 1939. In anticipation of potential bombing raids, the roof of the auditorium was reinforced to ensure the safety of moviegoers. This precautionary measure allowed the Ascot to survive the wartime challenges unscathed.
A Rich Cinematic History:
On December 6, 1939, the Ascot Cinema opened its doors to the public, presenting “Shipyard Sally” starring Gracie Fields as its inaugural film. Operated by Great Western Cinemas until February 1943, the theater then changed ownership, finding its home under Gaumont British Theatres Ltd. In July 1950, it underwent rebranding as the Gaumont and eventually became part of the Rank Organisation, taking on the name Odeon in May 1964.
Renaming and Change of Ownership:
In 1950, the Ascot underwent a transformation and was rebranded as the Gaumont. This change in name brought a renewed sense of identity to the cinema, marking a significant chapter in its history. However, in 1964, the Gaumount became part of the Odeon chain, aligning itself with one of the most recognised cinema brands in the country.
Decline and Transformation:
Despite surviving the ravages of war, the Ascot Cinema couldn’t escape the fate that befell many cinemas during the late 20th century. After serving as a bingo hall for over two decades, the inevitable decline of the cinema industry led to the demolition of the Ascot’s auditorium in 2001. However, the story did not end there.
From Cinema to Bingo Club (Inevitably):
Following its closure on October 25, 1975, the Ascot Cinema lay dormant until 1979, when it underwent a transformation into a County Bingo Club. This change of purpose marked a significant shift in the building’s use, although the grandeur of its cinematic past lingered within its walls.
A Resurrected Façade:
Amidst the changes, a silver lining emerged for the Ascot Cinema. The handsome Art Deco façade, a testament to its architectural heritage, was carefully restored as part of a modern residential development. Rising above the former cinema site, contemporary apartments now grace the landscape, while the restored façade pays homage to the Ascot’s glorious past.
Preserving Art Deco Splendour:
The restoration of the Ascot Cinema’s façade showcases Glasgow’s commitment to preserving its architectural heritage. While the cinema’s auditorium may no longer exist, the resurrection of the Art Deco exterior serves as a reminder of the Ascot’s once-grand presence. The integration of modern apartments into the development demonstrates the city’s ability to blend history with contemporary living.
The Ascot Cinema, a distinguished example of Art Deco magnificence, experienced a journey fraught with challenges and transformations. From its delayed opening due to wartime uncertainties to its eventual decline and demolition, the Ascot’s legacy lives on through its restored façade. As contemporary apartments now stand in its place, Glasgow preserves the essence of the Ascot’s architectural splendour, ensuring that its Art Deco allure remains a cherished part of the city’s heritage.