Cosmo Cinema/ GFT, Glasgow.

Cosmo Cinema/ GFT, Glasgow.

12 Rose Street,

Glasgow, G3 6RB


Original owner:  George Singleton.

Architects:  James McKissack and W J Anderson.

Original seating capacity:  850.

Date Opened:  Thursday 18th May 1939.

First feature shown:  ‘Un Carnet de Bal’, starring Marie Bell and Françoise Rosay.

Acquired by the Scottish Film Council:  21st April 1973.

Major structural changes made, and opened as the Glasgow Film Theatre:  Thursday 2nd May 1974.

Historic Scotland B-listed:  21st July 1988.

Screen 1:  394 seats.

Second 142 seat cinema constructed & opened:  1991.

Third 60 seat cinema constructed & opened:  2013.

Business continues as:  Glasgow Film Theatre.




Glaswegian, George Singleton, was one of the most prominent and respected film exhibitors in Scotland. During the 1930s he was fully aware that major exhibitor circuits were moving in with their massive picture palaces. They started to take control of the first run product to the detriment of independent operators.

In 1937, Oscar Deutsch (owner of Odeon Theatres) acquired the Singleton circuit, consisting of 14 cinemas, which George and a business partner had founded in 1920.

Vogue Cinema, Govan.

Now, under his own direction, George Singleton started again in 1938 by building a huge 2500 seat cinema in Govan called the Vogue. He knew that there was not a single commercial arthouse screen this side of the border. He was confident that there was a market in the exhibition of foreign films in Scotland. He was impressed and influenced by the specialist Academy Curzon Cinema in London.

George Singleton was adamant that Glasgow, with its vast cinema audiences, could sustain its own arthouse cinema.  He had a wide interest in the arts that embraced the exhibition of specialist and foreign films.

Securing an awkward sloping sight on Rose Street, near Sauchiehall Street, he then commissioned the prolific cinema architect James McKissack and W J Anderson to produce plans for a modestly sized cinema, set back from the building line, with a wide, stepped tower that would, importantly, attract customers from Sauchiehall Street, with its dazzling neon lite canopy and Cosmo sign. The name Cosmo being a derivative of “cosmopolitan”.

The architects drew on their inspiration of a leading Dutch modernist architect, Willem Marinus Dudok, for the windowless, geometric proportioned frontage with its linear vertical light wells. Built of Ayrshire brick, with light faience framing the entrance and lower reaches of the façade.

The lofty main foyer, with the globe positioned above the stalls entrance doors.

The impressive double height main entrance foyer, panelled in walnut, had cash desks on either side, between the entrance doors, with a kiosk set at the rear. The balcony was accessed via butterfly dual staircases. A globe sited near the stalls entrance reminded customers that this cinema was to provide an international theme in its choice of film programming.

Butterfly staircase 1966

With sweeping curves to the ceiling and walls, the 850-seat streamlined auditorium sharply contrasted to the straight lines of the exterior design. A circular domed feature with concealed lighting relieved the plainness of the main ceiling. There was little ornate plasterwork which further enhanced the smooth lines and curves in neutral and pink tones that swept in a series of subtle curves towards the plain proscenium. There were satin curtains and indirect lighting to create a welcoming ambience.

George Singleton wanted to avoid the barring of first run films policy that saw the major cinema circuits take the distributor’s first run programmes, thus barring the nearby independent operators playing the same film concurrently.

He was to re-acquaint and also introduce a new, discerning audience to a diverse selection of programmes that would include continental fiction films, revivals of British and American fiction films, documentaries, cartoons and news reels. Charles Oakley, of the Film Society and the Scottish Film Council, had cleverly designed a mascot cartoon bowler-hatted character, Mr Cosmo, who was loosely based on George Singleton.

From day one this character design would be associated with the promotion of The Cosmo, used in press advertising, posters and screen film tags that preceded the main features. Generations of Glaswegians would identify Mr Cosmo with this unique cinema and its slogan of ‘Entertainment for the Discriminating’.

The Cosmo opened on Thursday 18th May 1939, the final cinema to be designed by James McKissack before his death, and the last cinema to be built in Glasgow before the outbreak of WWII.  The first feature shown was Julien Duvivier’s ‘Un Carnet de Bal’, starring Marie Bell and Françoise Rosay.

The first film shown at the Cosmo.

From that opening feature there was a strong influence of quality European films being booked into the Cosmo’s select programming. Thanks to Charles Oakley’s selection from the film catalogues which assisted George Singleton to provide booking for films in the first year, such as ‘La Grande Illusion’, starring Jean Gabin, and Dita Parlo and ‘La kermesse héroïque, starring Françoise Rosay and Jean Murat.

On the outbreak of WWII the supply of quality European films became scarce, leaving the Cosmo with little option but to screen popular English language movies. Members of the French navy who were stationed at Greenock during the war were given free film shows, as a sign of solidarity. Once the hostilities ceased the Cosmo reverted back to its pre-war programming of showing films beyond the commercial mainstream. Screening a mixture of long running films like ‘Les Enfants du Paradis’, ‘Hamlet’, ‘Fantasia’, ‘Jazz on a Summer’s Day’.

Large queues form for ‘Jazz on a Summer’s Day’

The first ever television performance in a Glasgow cinema took place at the Cosmo when the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was screened live on Tuesday 2nd June 1953.

The Cosmo Cinema continued in business for nearly three decades before changes were made to the main entrance in 1968. The lofty ceiling was reduced to single height, enabling a new bar to be constructed above. A single staircase replaced the original two staircases.

George Singleton retired in 1972. The following year, on 21st April, the cinema was sold to the Scottish Film Council who made major structural alterations. The balcony was extended forward towards a newly constructed proscenium, which now formed a new cinema. However, most of the original features were maintained, in particular the ceiling dome, which was affectionately nicknamed ‘Mr Cosmo’s Bowler Hat’, as well as the curving side walls and decorative covers to the ventilation system.  The new cinema had 404 seats with 4 wheelchair spaces. The stalls area became a conference and exhibition centre.

Renamed the Glasgow Film Theatre, the new luxurious screen opened on Thursday 2nd May 1974. The first film shown was Federico Fellini’s ‘Roma’.

Glasgow Film Theatre c. 1976

In 1986 the Glasgow Film Theatre became independent of the Scottish Film Council, becoming a registered charity. A campaign was launched to raise £425,000 to convert the conference area into a second cinema with support from artists such as Sean Connery.

Sean Connery, with Glasgow Film Theatre director Ken Ingles, pictured ~ October 1987

On 21st July 1988, Historic Scotland gave a B-listing to the General Film Theatre.

With funding now achieved, a second, 142 seat cinema, and a ground floor café were opened in the conference centre area during 1991. Further remodelling took place in 1998 when building work took place to the designs of architect James Doherty. The foyer was tastefully brought up to date with features reminiscent of the original design, such as a mosaic globe set into the floor.

A third, 60 seat cinema was constructed in the café area during 2013.


A further 2016 refurbishment re-introduced an interpretation of the iconic butterfly staircase leading up to the first-floor bar and Screen 1.


The iconic main auditorium, Screen 1, now has a seating capacity of 394.

Despite strong nearby multiplex competition the uniqueness of the GFT means that it remains a firm favourite for ‘Entertainment for the Discriminating’ Glasgow cinema goer.  ©


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