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Story of The Britannia Music Hall -The Oldest surviving Music Hall in Britain

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The Glasgow Panopticon
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Theatres

The first theatre in Glasgow was built in 1764 on the present day site of Central Station. But like many theatres it was burnt down by self-righteous mobs. Acting, especially for women, was considered scandalous and thespians often had to be escorted to and from the venues.
In 1805, the first Theatre Royal, the largest theatre outside London, was built at Exchange Square. It was the first in the country to be lit by gaslight but was later burned down.
In 1845, despite public protest, Britain's largest theatre, the City Theatre, seating 5000, was built on Glasgow Green but its over-ambitious size led to its closure a few months later.
In the 1800s, during the Glasgow Fair, small booths called 'Penny Geggies' staged short plays and launched careers for stars like Will Fyffe.
Many permanent theatres, like the Britannia at 115 Trongate were reached by a stairway. It was bought by the eccentric A.E. Pickard and re-named the Panopticon - it is Glasgow's oldest remaining theatre.

Forgotten about for many years, a dedicated group are now hoping to restore it to its former glory.
In 1878, Her Majesties Theatre opened in the Gorbals. It became the Royal Princesses Theatre and is now the Citizen's Theatre. Next door was the Palace Music Hall, opened in 1906, with its famed Elephant's Head boxes now displayed at London's theatre museum.
The only theatre in the West End, was the old Empress Theatre at St George's Cross, Glaswegians preferring the city centre and southside venues, unlike Londoners and their favoured West End.


Metropole
The Metropole Theatre played host to some of the world's greatest stars. The first Metropole opened in Stockwell Street in 1897, taking over the Scoria Music Hall which had been established in 1862.
Sir Harry Lauder, who had made early amateur appearances at the Scotia became a regular patron of the Metropole in recognition of the opportunities it had given him. But the most famous international star to learn his trade on the Metropole stage was Arthur Stanley Jefferson, whose first stage appearance was at the Panoprican in 1906. His father, Arthur, manager of the Metropole, then let him appear on his stage using the stage name Stan Laurel for the first time.
The classic Glaswegian comedian Tommy Morgan spent much of his career at the Metropole becoming its principal comedian from the 20s to the 50s.
From the 1930s the well-known Glasgow theatrical family, the Logans, ran the theatre until it burned down in 1961. The following year the New Metropole was opened by Alex Fruitin, taking over the failed Falcon Theatre arts centre in St George's Road, which had originally been the West End Playhouse in 1913. And in 1964, the theatre was purchased by the most famous member of the Logan family, Jimmy, who sadly died from cancer in 2001. For years he struggled to keep the theatre going but never managed to make a great success of the place. It lay empty for many years before being demolished to make way for modern brick flats in 1989.


Cinemas
Glaswegians have always been mad about the cinema, so much so that in 1939 the city boasted the highest number of seats per capita anywhere in the world.
Glasgow's moving picture fascination started in 1896 at the Ice Skating Palace on Sauchiehall Street. Within a year music halls like the Coliseum, the Alhambra and Pickard's Panopticon were incorporating 'films' into their weekly entertainment.

Glasgow's first purpose-built cinema was Sauchiehall Street's Electric Theatre which opened its doors in 1910. By the start of WWII the Associated British Cinemas, ABC, had established more than 400 cinemas in Scotland alone.
Cinemas were big business and no matter where you lived, there were at least two cinemas within a 10-minute walk. Glaswegians also went to the cinema more, exceeding 50 times a year compared to the Scottish average of about 30.
Going to the cinema then was very different from today. Shows ran continuously throughout the afternoon and evening and had a Saturday morning children's matinee. As well as a main feature there were also trailers, cartoons, a news reel and a 'B' movie.
But as society changed after the war, with TV becoming more accessible and popular and film-makers making less films for children and families, the huge cinema culture declined.

Of the 114 Glasgow cinemas, less than 40 remain today, with only a handful still showing films, the rest now mostly Bingo halls.
However cinemas have made a comeback with the new multiplexes enticing a new generation 'going to the pictures.

 

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