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Aberdeen Cinemas: Coliseum / New Kinema / Belmont
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Aberdeen Cinemas: Coliseum / New Kinema / Belmont

Historic Photographs
David Oswald
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Aberdeen Cinemas: Coliseum / New Kinema / Belmont
Historic Photographs
Aberdeen Cinemas: Coliseum / New Kinema / Belmont
An Aberdeen Journals Archive image of the Belmont Cinema in 1952.

The building that now houses the Belmont Filmhouse was originally built in 1896 as a Trades Hall to a design by architects Alexander Ellis and Robert Gordon Wilson.

The grey granite ashlar entrance at 49-51 Belmont Street leads to the main building, best seen from Union Terrace and Rosemount Viaduct. With multiple floors, the building makes full use of the different levels of the Denburn valley. Historic Environmental Scotland's statement of special interest for the building notes its tall and narrow design and bartizan towers at its far end, describing it as "a distinctive piece of architecture."

Michael Thomson explains that the Trades Hall provided much needed accommodation for meetings, social events and lectures. The main hall originally featured ceiling paintings by Robert Douglas Strachan (1875-1950), who went on to become an acclaimed stained-glass artist.

The construction of the hall was an ambitious and costly undertaking for Aberdeen's labour movement. This led to the hall being increasingly rented out for commercial performances, including cinematographic showings.

William Walker, a local cinematographic pioneer who was also a successful bookseller, leased out the building's main hall as a picture house. The Coliseum was opened on 22 August 1910 by Messrs Walker and Company and so began the building's long life as a cinema.

In July 1911 Glasgow's J. J. Bennell took over control of the Coliseum. Popular features of the venue during Walker and Bennell's time included short "topicals" that documented local life and live variety acts. Thomson explains that Bennell was also a pioneer of Saturday morning matinees for children.

In August 1913 Dove Paterson, another local pioneer who had opened Aberdeen's first permanent cinema on Shiprow, took over at the Coliseum. Paterson died unexpectedly in May 1916 and this brought a temporary halt to the Coliseum cinema. It briefly reopened in December of that year under the management of the Trades Hall, but this only lasted a couple of months before the cinema closed again.

The cinema was then managed by veteran singer D. Brown McGill, who made use of his established contacts in variety circles. His tenure saw the venue complementing its programme of film showings with a range of other entertainments including roller skating, boxing and dancing.

On 11th April 1921 the cinema reopened as the New Kinema, under the management of Henry Philips, who had previously run the Picturedrome on Skene Terrace. One interesting performer at the venue in 1929 noted by Michael Thomson was an illusionist called Carletta who conjured up rabbits to give away to patrons as pets.

In 1935 the then proprietors of the New Kinema, James Brebner and George Walker, were involved in the formation of the Caledonian Theatre public company. It was formed to purchase the site of the La Scala cinema and nearby buildings on Union Street with the intention of building a new super-cinema. In time this would become the Majestic.

June 1935 saw the renovation of the New Kinema and renewal of its heating plant, lighting and sound equipment. It reopened as The Belmont on the 24th of that month.

[Information primarily sourced from Silver Screen in the Silver City (1988) by Michael Thomson]

Image © Aberdeen Journals Ltd.
Belmont Street
2. Copyright known - held by third party
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