One of the earliest screenings of the cinematograph in Bo’ness was on 27 December 1897 in the Drill Hall in Corbiehall.  It was arranged by Bo’ness Parish Church and subsequent shows over the following years were done under the auspices of the Foundry Boys Society, Sunday Schools and by Temperance societies.

The new Town Hall was opened in 1904 and quickly became a venue for touring variety companies and for cinematograph exhibitions. Touring companies, such as Walker and Company’s Royal Cinematograph, Prince Bendon’s Bioscope, Dr Ormonde’s Family and Sunflower Company, and Calder’s Great Cinematograph and Popular Concert Company, visited the Town Hall and the Drill Hall throughout the first decade of the 20th century.

In September 1909 Louis Dickson moved to Bo’ness from Edinburgh and took a lease of the Drill Hall which he renamed the Picture Palace and in 1910 Councillor John Jeffrey converted the hall adjacent to his Clydesdale Hotel into the Electric Theatre.  After a disastrous fire at Regent House in North Street in 1911 Dickson arranged for the takings from a night’s variety performance and cinematograph show to go to those who had suffered as a consequence.  Jeffrey gave a similar entertainment in the Town Hall which included his own picture of a series of local events including the opening of the Duchess Nina Nurses’ Home, scenes at the recent fire in North Street, and street scenes at a wedding in the Clydesdale Hotel.  In addition to his duties as cinema manager and proprietor, Dickson, was Scottish agent for Pathé and took films of various news events.  An expert with the movie camera, his films of the ceremonies at the Bo’ness Children’s Festival, taken from 1910 onwards, formed a great attraction when exhibited at the Hippodrome and the Pavilion.

The cinemas in this section are as follows :


The early travelling cinematograph shows visited the small communities throughout central Scotland.  The limited seating capacity of these makeshift cinemas meant that while it was worthwhile for their owners to stop in a village, they did not remain for as long as they did in the towns.  Community venues such as church halls were well used.  Few, however, were able to sustain a permanent cinema.  The Picture House in Brightons could tap into the large mining community in the area and draw people from the surrounding area – from Maddiston, Polmont, Rumford, Shieldhill and Redding.  Remoter locations such as Slamannan and Avonbridge made their own provision for intermittent services.  At Avonbridge a disused blanket mill was converted into a part-time cinema and community hall.  At Slamannan the church hall was utilised.

The cinemas in this area are as follows:


The cinemas in this area are as follows:


Like many small towns in central Scotland Denny was frequently visited at the beginning of the 20th century by travelling shows with their portable theatres.  These often assembled in a field at the end of the glebe off what was to become Dryburgh Road.  As the popularity of cinemas increased the privately owned Denny Town Hall was occasionally let for the purpose of showing animated pictures and eventually longer-term leases evolved.

The first fulltime cinema, known as the Picture House, was built in 1913 at the north end of the town on Stirling Road by a retired footballer.  This cinema was capable of holding 600 people and also held variety performances.  The Minister at Denny was naturally opposed to picture houses, even though they were not allowed to open on Sundays.  In 1920 the Commercial Cinematograph Company Ltd took over the Picture House and ran it to packed audiences leading to complaints that the queues obstructed the footpath in front of the building.  So, when the Town hall was destroyed by fire that Company purchased its site and built a state-of-the-art cinema capable of holding almost 1,000.  The pavement in front of it was extra wide.  It opened in 1939 but the Picture House was run in tandem with it.

The most remarkable feature of the Denny cinemas was the periodic rasing to the ground by fire of the site in Glasgow Road.

  • 1888 – Denny Public Hall destroyed by fire.
  • 1937 – Denny Town hall destroyed by fire.
  • 1949 – Cinema De Luxe destroyed by fire.
  • 2010 – Bingo Hall and Social Club badly damaged by fire.

However, the overall picture was similar to that elsewhere with full houses throughout the 1920s and 1930s and a slow decline in the 1950s and 1960s resulting in closure and conversion to bingo halls.

For those living in the smaller communities a trip to the cinema was a special event.  This is what Jim Jamieson had to say about living in Allandale in the 1940s and 1950s:

“Allandale did not have a cinema but occasionally there would be a film show in the works canteen [Stein’s brickworks].  The programmes for these were usually old documentaries and Charlie Chaplin epics.  The nearest cinema was Harris’s Picture House in Bonnybridge where the programme changed three times a week.  They also had a matinee for children on a Saturday afternoon when the admission was 2d for the ‘dumps,’ as the wooden forms down the front were called and 3d for the cushioned tip-up seats further back.  Smoking cinnamon sticks was common at the matinee and these could be purchased at Robertson’s shop at Bonnybridge Toll but care had to be taken to select a stick which would smoke well.  In the evening the admission was 6d for the ‘dumps,’ 10d for the cushioned seats or if you were ‘winching,’ that is going steady with someone, you could splash out for the expensive double seats at the back which were 1/3d for each of you.  But old Henry Harris had his big armchair at the very back to watch for any ‘hanky-panky.’  For your money you could get a ‘B’ picture, cartoon, serial, news then the main feature.  People went to the pictures regularly and sometimes you did not know what was on until you got there.  When we got a bit older there was a large choice of cinemas to go to.  There were two picture houses in Denny, the ‘De Luxe’ and ‘The Picture House,’ or Camelon had the ‘Ritz’ then further on Falkirk had five cinemas – ‘The Pavilion’ in Newmarket Street, ‘The Regal’ in Princes Street, ‘The Salon’ in Vicar Street, ‘The Picture House’ in Bank Street and ‘The Cinema’ in Melville Street.  There were queues at them all on Saturday evenings.  The programmes were continuous which meant you could go in at about 2pm and sit right through the programmes many times until 10.30pm.  I suppose it was a nice place to have a sleep out of the cold on a winter’s day.  ‘The Pavilion’ also had the children’s GB Club on a Saturday morning and ‘The Regal’ had the ABC Club and these were also well attended.” (Allandale Cottages, 42-43).

Even a small hamlet like Banknock had its own purpose-built cinema in 1913.  At the time there was a distillery, a brickworks and an active coalmining industry in the area, but even so it is amazing that such a small settlement should have its own facility for showing pictures.  In this sense it is matched only by that at Avonbridge, though the latter re-used an old textile mill.

The individual cinemas in this area are as follows:


The history of cinema in Grangemouth is dominated by Albert Faulkner who, although not a local man, was one of the best-known residents of the town in the 1920s and 1930s.  He first came to Grangemouth as part of the travelling show in Zetland Park in 1907 and returned annually until finding permanent premises in 1911 in an old church building.  Prior to that, cinema-goers had to make the trip to Falkirk for their entertainment.  Mechanically minded, he was constantly engaged in the early development of animated pictures, in producing accessories and making improvements to his projectors.

He did not, however, have Grangemouth to himself and early in 1913 fought off a challenge in the form of a let of the Town Hall to a rival operator.  Within months a second company arrived on the scene headed by John Atkinson of the Falkirk Electric Theatre, another early cinematograph pioneer.  A second cinema was built in the town.  It was purpose-built and opened just a year after the Hippodrome in Bo’ness.  Like the Hippodrome it was designed by local architects and has an important place in the history of cinema architecture.  Its warm Scots Renaissance style is very unusual and pleasing.

In 1920 Faulkner took over La Scala and ran it successfully unto his death in 1942, when his youngest daughter became proprietrix.  She continued her father’s tradition of allowing it to be used for fundraising activities and together they show how welded a well-run cinema could become to its community.  Indeed, cinemas were in the blood – her husband Stephen Thom managed La Scala on her behalf and later her son, also Stephen Thom, managed it for Caledonian Associated Cinemas Ltd, Inverness.  Like so many cinemas it had been taken over by a chain and eventually became a bingo hall before closing and remaining empty and entering an ignominious period for such a beautiful building.

The individual cinemas in this area are as follows:


The area to the north of the River Carron had easy access to cinemas in Camelon, Falkirk and Grangemouth by way of the Circular Tramway and a good bus service.  Nevertheless, a fulltime cinema was established at Stenhousemuir and films were shown in some of the halls such as the Miners’ Welfare in Skinflats.

Larbert had an intimate connection with the silent films through one of its sons, James Finlayson, who was born there on 27 August 1887.  Following the death of his parents he emigrated to the United States in 1911 and by 1926 was a film star in Los Angeles.   He returned to Larbert on a visit to his home ground on 26 July 1926.  A year later he starred alongside Laurel and Hardie and is remembered for his trademark expression “d’ohhhhh.”

The individual cinemas in this area are as follows:

G.B. Bailey, 2021