£5m development plans for former Leith cinema revealed

LIFE is set to imitate art as developers look to turn a former iconic art deco cinema into luxury flats.

Tuesday, 22nd August 2017, 5:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 12:17 pm
Leading independent developer Glencairn Properties has acquired a former iconic Art Deco cinema in Edinburgh and will submit plans next month to turn the building into a residential development comprising apartments. Contributed

The £5 million project to convert the State Cinema in Leith into 37 apartments mirrors the storyline of a hit show at this year’s Fringe, Double Feature.

Currently attracting rave reviews at the Rose Theatre, the play sees two friends turn a former cinema, nightclub and bingo hall into flats – all in common with the State venue.

Star of Double Feature, broadcaster Grant Stott said: “The similarities are really bizarre. We even feature the film Where Eagles Dare in the play and that was the last film ever shown at the cinema, I believe.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Stanhope Street-based Glencairn Properties have bought the B-listed building on Great Junction Street and will submit plans next month.

The rundown State Cinema closed in 1972 before going on to be used as a bingo hall, nightclub and church.

Plans are expected to include some affordable housing with the B-listed cinema retained and an old warehouse at the back demolished.

“They’re really weird coincidences,” added Stott, taking a breather from sell-out shows at the Rose Street venue.

“I sent it to Phil Differ who wrote the play and we had a good laugh about it. It really would’ve been something to put the show on in there.”

The cinema was originally designed by architect Sir James Miller and opened in December 1938 – containing shops, two billiard halls and a skittle alley.

A sweeping curved entrance had a tower feature on the left hand side, topped by a pagoda roof. The State’s opening night featured Madeleine Carroll in Blockade and Gene Autry in Boots and Saddles.

It could seat 1650 patrons with 450 on the raised portion behind the stalls.

The cinema closed in 1972 after showing Richard Burton in Where Eagles Dare and became a Mecca bingo hall.

In 1995, it was B-listed by Historic Scotland but none of the original features remain.

It was turned into the Babylon nightclub in 2002, which closed two years later. It continues to have a number of uses, including the Kingdom Church.

In February, 2005 plans were proposed by Glasgow-based developer Walter Barratt to demolish the auditorium and retain the facade and foyer as an entrance to a new block of flats on the site.

There was also a plan for a restaurant along the Water of Leith side of the building.

Daryl Teague, director of Glencairn Properties, described buying the building as “complex”, with a number of legal and ownership issues, though he declined to give details.

He confirmed work will start next year if plans by ISA Architects are approved by the city council this autumn.

“There is very little of the original interior left, but 
we intend to reopen the old foyer as an entrance to the accommodation,” commented Mr Teague.

“Our planning application is being submitted this autumn and we look forward to taking the plans forward.”