Portobello’s art deco George Cinema facing demolition

The art deco cinema, which is now a bingo hall, in Bath Street. Picture: Greg Macvean

The art deco cinema, which is now a bingo hall, in Bath Street. Picture: Greg Macvean

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A CAMPAIGN to save a former cinema and transform it back to its art deco glory days has been launched after plans to demolish it were revealed.

An application has been submitted to planning chiefs to knock down the C-listed former George Cinema in Portobello and turn it into flats.

One of the ideas is to screen films, though we would not be looking to convert it into a full-scale cinema.

Rob Hoon

But locals are outraged at the prospect of losing the historic building – which currently houses a bingo hall – and have launched a bid to save it from demolition and to turn it back into a cinema and art space.

A Facebook page – entitled Our George – has been set up by local residents who are determined not to lose the “wonderful and historic” Bath Street landmark.

Arts hub Out of the Blue has confirmed it is looking into the possibility of buying the art deco building, which is currently on the market.

It is in the middle of conducting a feasibility study into potential uses, which could include film screenings.

Rob Hoon, manager of Out of the Blue, said: “We are carrying out the study to see whether it’s viable to purchase this building and create an arts facility that would go some way towards replacing some of the space already lost in Portobello to developers.

“There are a lot of housing developments and few community facilities.

“We are working with the community to see what resources they would like in the building.

“One of the ideas is to screen films, though we would not be looking to convert it into a full-scale cinema.”

Mr Hoon added that the feasibility study should be completed by July, when a business plan would then be put together.

The Our George Facebook page, which has attracted more than 400 likes in just two days, states: “This page has been established to promote the value of a wonderful and historic structure at the heart of the community of Portobello.

“The community has an ever diminishing number of community assets which face the continued threat of erosion from developer-led house building.

“Perhaps this wonderful structure can be a very positive focal point for a stand against this.”

The building first opened as the County Cinema on March 30, 1939. It was designed by well-known architect T Bowhill Gibson and originally had a large 33ft-high, glass advertising tower in the centre of the façade, which was illuminated by changing colours of neon at night.

In 1954 the County Cinema was taken over by the George Palmer circuit and was re-constructed internally and re-named The George Cinema. It closed in June, 1974 and was turned into a bingo hall.

Supporters of the campaign to save the building are being asked to share their memories and old photos of the former cinema on the Our George Facebook page.

newsen@edinburghnews.com