Cinematic Hogmanay

Hogmanay has a lot of cinematic connections in Scotland; here’s just two of them – one happy, one sad.

On 31st December 1934, the Paramount cinema in Renfield Street opened, to a huge fanfare.



The main foyer had an open staircase to the upper foyer, which looked down onto the ground floor, and was home to a tea room and restaurant, situated under the tall corner windows. The single huge auditorium sat nearly 2,800 in the circle and stalls, and was originally decorated in green, copper and silver. A Compton organ rose from this understage area (remarkably, the organ console survives, and is being restored by the Scottish Cinema Organ Trust).



Here she is in a photo taken earlier today, on her 75th birthday, sadly empty and derelict after closing as a nine-screen cinema in 2006.



Hogmanay is also sadly the anniversary of one of the worst cinema disasters ever to occur in this country. In 1929, over 700 children were packed into the Glen cinema in Paisley watching the cowboy film ‘Desperado Dude’ when a smoking film reel led to panic and a mad rush for the exits. The fire exit, at the bottom of a flight of steps, was blocked by a locked metal gate, and around 70 children were killed in the resulting crush. 

After a long investigation, fire safety regulations were greatly tightened up, to ensure nothing like it could happen again. 
Closing after the disaster, the building is now used by a variety of businesses, and partly hidden by a more modern building built in front in the 1930s. Much of the original plasterwork & decoration survives above a suspended ceiling in a furniture store.

The victims are being remembered in a ceremony to be held in Paisley today; and a new documentary film is being made to commemorate the tragedy. More details here:



Further reading:
Paramount/Odeon Glasgow:
Glen Paisley:
[Archive images of the Paramount courtesy of the Cinema Theatre Association archive]

About Gordon Barr

Old buildings fan, ex-scientist, software dev, old cinemas buff, occasional boffin & cow-wrangler. Too many books, too few bookshelves.
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