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GFT: GLASGOW FILM THEATRE

WHERE IS IT? On Rose Street, just off Sauchiehall Street, one block south of St. Aloysius Church.

Just off of Sauchiehall Street, the GFT (originally the Cosmo) was Scotland’s first purpose built arthouse cinema when it opened in 1939, just before World War II.

Envisioned by George Singleton to feed the citizens’ growing appetite for foreign films, he enlisted Glaswegian architects James McKissack and W.J. Anderson. At the time McKissack & Sons had garnered a strong reputation for cinemas, having been involved in the design of over thirty of those in Scotland. This was to be McKissack’s penultimate picture house, with his last being the Riddire Picture House the following year, before his death in 1940. Inspired by the fact that this would not just be a cinema but one bringing foreign films to the city, the architects adopted many European themes. The geometric, windowless exterior echoes the work of Dutch designer Willem Marinus Dudok, with the Ayrshire brick set on a base of black Swedish granite. They also added a globe above the stalls entrance inside, to underline the point.

 

The Cosmo enjoyed success for three decades, until the arrival of the 1970s, when it was no longer seen as economically viable. The Scottish Film Council purchased the space, having the auditorium to make one screen and a basement conference area. The group continued the tradition of showing world cinema. It also partnered up with the Third Eye Arts Centre, which would become the Centre for Contemporary Arts, to bring experimental screenings and promote discussion and debate upon the subject of cinema.

 

A decade later, the GFT became a registered charity, raising money to convert the basement into a second screen, hiring architects James Doherty and Todd Garner to revamp the foyer space, the latter creating a mosaic globe, perfectly capturing the original intention of the cinema.