<< Go Back up to Atmospheric Theatres Main Page

New Victoria Cinema (photo credit Scottish Cinemas)

New Victoria Cinema

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

First Opened: 25th August 1930 (91 years ago)

Closed: 30th August 2003

Atmospheric Style: Semi-Atmospheric

Architects: William Edward Trent, John Jerdan (assisting)

Former Name: Odeon Edinburgh

Address: 7 Clerk Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9JH Link opens in new window

Historic Environment Scotland Category A Listed Building: #LB30028 Link opens in new window (added 12th December 1974)


Overview

Auditorium in the 1930s
Auditorium in the 1930s

The New Victoria Cinema opened in late August 1930 as a project of Gaumont British Theatres and Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT). Architect William E. Trent designed the single screen super-cinema, which originally seated 2,058 (claimed in some newspapers to be nearly 3,000) on two levels.

Externally the façade was clad in cream tiles and had four Doric columns over the entrance, and a balcony/terrace open to the public. The auditorium evoked the sense of sitting in an open-air Grecian amphitheatre, the fire/safety curtain complementing the theme being painted with a representation of the Acropolis at Athens.

The extremely wide auditorium had a blue-sky ceiling onto which moving clouds were projected. The auditorium sidewalls had a series of niches that contained sculptures, described variously as Gods and Godsesses of the Acropolis or as the Muses of Art, Music, and Drama. Ionic columns ran in a colonnade across the rear of the balcony, and at the rear of the stalls (main floor) seating were a series of 12 private boxes. Seating was 1,226 in the stalls (main floor), 772 in the balcony, and 60 in the boxes.

The cinema was built with a stage 88ft wide by 32ft deep (26.8m by 9.8m), five dressing rooms, and a proscenium opening of 46ft (13.7m) in width. Other facilities included a Wurlitzer 3-manual, 10-rank theatre organ (opus 1265) which had originally been installed in the Embassy Theatre, Baltimore (Maryland), US in 1926.

CinemaScope was installed in 1954. The proscenium was widened and brought forward (and the pillars hidden by curtains) in 1958 to allow South Pacific Link opens in new window to be exhibited in 70mm. The auditorium was also modernized, and lights were fitted to the ceiling to enhance the atmospheric effect of sitting under a starry sky. The seating was also reduced to around 1,784.

From early April 1964 the cinema was renamed the Odeon, and in December 1974 was given a Grade B Listed Building status. The listing was upgraded to Grade A in April 2012, in large part due to the building’s significant rarity as one of only two surviving Atmospheric cinemas in Scotland. Historic Scotland Link opens in new window stated at the time that “No semi-atmospheric cinemas of comparable scale and style to the New Victoria survive in Britain”.

The stage was made deeper in 1978, and the building was often used for live music shows such as The Clash.

Auditorium in 2005
Auditorium in 2005

In March 1982 the Odeon was converted into a triple screen cinema, with 695 seats (Screen 1) in the former balcony and two screens in the former rear stalls (main floor) area seating 293 and 201. Due to the listed status the conversion was done in a reversible manner. In December 1989 two additional screens were opened, seating 259 in the former front stalls (main floor) and stage area (Screen 4), and 182 above it in the former stagehouse (Screen 5).

The Odeon closed as a cinema in late August 2003, and Odeon sold the building to a property developer.

The building was used as a venue for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Link opens in new window, called Pod Deco, in 2004 and 2005. In February 2005, plans were lodged with Edinburgh City Council to demolish the auditorium entirely for the erection of student flats, with retention only of the external façade. The considerable controversy generated may have in large part led to the plans being withdrawn.

In 2010, plans submitted in 2008 for the building to be demolished – which had been approved by Edinburgh City Council in 2009 – were overturned by Ministers of the Scottish Government following the intervention of Historic Scotland who claimed that destroying the Category B-listed building was “not justified”.

In late 2012, plans were submitted and subsequently granted to demolish the stagehouse and use the land for student accommodation, now branded Hello Student Accommodation Link opens in new window.

In 2013 Gerry Boyle (brother of singer Susan Boyle) took over the building to convert it into a live performance venue. The foyer/lobby and other areas of the building opened on 1st November 2013 as the Instant Arena. The main auditorium opened in 2014 as a 600-seat venue, but closed within weeks.

In November 2015 the empty building was purchased by hospitality and leisure operator G1 Group, whose portfolio of venues include restaurants, bars, late night bars, nightclubs, cinemas, and hotels. Proposals for using the building as an entertainment venue, super-pub, or as an arts center have come and gone over the years.

In May 2022 it was announced Link opens in new window that the historic cinema would be brought back to life. Owners The Scotsman Group (formerly G1 Group) confirmed they “are working hard in the background on plans to bring this historic site back to life”.

Information in part sourced from Cinema Treasures Link opens in new window.

Further Reading

Online

Historic Photos & Documents
Preview of the theatre, as printed in the 18th August 1930 edition of the <i>Edinburgh Evening News</i> (750KB PDF)
Preview of the theatre, as printed in the 18th August 1930 edition of the Edinburgh Evening News (750KB PDF)
Opening ad, as printed in the 18th August 1930 edition of the <i>Edinburgh Evening News</i> (90KB PDF)
Opening ad, as printed in the 18th August 1930 edition of the Edinburgh Evening News (90KB PDF)
Preview of the theatre’s opening, as printed in the 23rd August 1930 edition of <i>The Scotsman</i> (200KB PDF)
Preview of the theatre’s opening, as printed in the 23rd August 1930 edition of The Scotsman (200KB PDF)
The New Victoria in the 1930s, courtesy <i>Scottish Cinemas</i> (JPG)
The New Victoria in the 1930s, courtesy Scottish Cinemas (JPG)
The New Victoria in the 1930s, courtesy <i>Scottish Cinemas</i> (JPG)
The New Victoria in the 1930s, courtesy Scottish Cinemas (JPG)
The New Victoria in the 1960s following remodeling of the proscenium, courtesy <i>Scottish Cinemas</i> (JPG)
The New Victoria in the 1960s following remodeling of the proscenium, courtesy Scottish Cinemas (JPG)
The main auditorium in 1982, courtesy <i>Alistair Kerr / Scottish Cinemas</i> (JPG)
The main auditorium in 1982, courtesy Alistair Kerr / Scottish Cinemas (JPG)
Sidewall of the main auditorium in 1982, courtesy <i>Alistair Kerr / Scottish Cinemas</i> (JPG)
Sidewall of the main auditorium in 1982, courtesy Alistair Kerr / Scottish Cinemas (JPG)
The main auditorium in August 2005 in use as a venue for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, courtesy <i>Scottish Cinemas</i> (JPG)
The main auditorium in August 2005 in use as a venue for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, courtesy Scottish Cinemas (JPG)
Files displayed in this section may be subject to copyright; refer to our Copyright Fair Use Statement regarding our use of copyrighted media.

Photographs copyright © 2002-2022 Mike Hume / Historic Theatre Photos unless otherwise noted.

Text copyright © 2017-2022 Mike Hume / Historic Theatre Photos.

For photograph licensing and/or re-use contact me here Contact Us.





Follow Mike Hume’s Historic Theatre Photography: Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Instagram Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Facebook Follow Historic Theatre Photos on Twitter