Bayliss leased it to a pair of theatre owners, William Glover and George Francis. Their theatre, the original Theatre Royal, had been demolished to make way for the new St. Enoch Railway Station. Along with the theatre name, they also brought their entire cast and crew. In 1879, the theatre’s auditorium was irreparably damaged by fire, and had to be rebuilt. Famous English theatre architect Charles J. Phipps envisioned the French Renaissance style that still stands today.
In the next decade the theatre changed managers numerous times. Baillie Michael Williams brought together actors Irishman John B. Howard and the Edinburgh born Frederick WP Wyndham to form Howard & Wyndham, the theatre management firm that would later go on to take over the Glasgow King’s Theatre.
Despite Howard’s death weeks after the company was formed, it eventually went on to become the biggest theatre companies in all of Britain. The Royal, its flagship theatre, was ravaged by fire again not long after Howard & Wyndham took over, but Phipps was able to restore his original design with a few improvements.
In the late 1950s, Howard & Wyndham invested in Scottish Television, with the Royal passing onto the television station, and was sold in the 1970s to Scottish Opera. The company invested in heavy restoration work, and increasing its size, converting it into Scotland’s first national opera house. In the next two decades it would also become home to the Scottish Ballet as well as the Scottish Theatre Company.
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.