Olympia (ABC) Cinema, Bridgeton, Glasgow.

Olympia(ABC) Cinema, Bridgeton.

14 Orr Street,
Glasgow, G40 2QH


Original owners:  Glasgow Olympia Theatre of Varieties Ltd.

Architects:  George Arthur & Son.

Internal Design by:  Frank Matcham.

General Contractors: Messrs Thaw and Campbell.

Original Seating Capacity as a Theatre:  2000 .

Date Opened:  Monday 18th September 1911.

Building Used as a Cinema from:  1924.

Taken over in 1924 by:  Scottish Cinema and Variety Theatres Ltd., (ABC).

Major Alterations in 1938. Architects:  Charles J. McNair and Henry F. Elder.

Reduced seating capacity as from 1938:  1689.

Date re-opened as the new ABC Olympia Cinema:  Monday 21st November 1938.

Date Closed as a cinema :  Saturday 9th March 1974.

Final Film Shown:  ‘Enter the Dragon’ starring Bruce Lee and John Saxon.

Historic Scotland Grade B Listed:  23rd March 1977.

Main Structure Demolished:  June 2011.

Façade Extant, incorporated into a new library, offices & leisure interests.



On this corner of Orr Street at Bridgeton Cross was the site chosen by Glasgow Olympia Theatre of Varieties Ltd for their new theatre. The architects for the building were George Arthur & Son, who made full use of this fan-shaped site, with its curved corner entrance and towering columns above the first floor, topped by a dome with four integral ocular windows around its base rising from the parapet above in a red sandstone baroque style. To the right five bays with giant pilasters were flanked by two bay rusticated ends. It was constructed in just six months by contractors, Messrs Thaw and Campbell, who used the services of many local trades people.

The interior design of the 2000 seat auditorium, with a dress circle, balcony and stalls with its lavish plasterwork was executed by the renowned theatre architect, Frank Matcham.

The Olympia Theatre of Varieties opened on Monday 18th September 1911. Its time as a music hall was short lived. In the original plans it had been anticipated that it may become a cinema. Plans were drawn up in 1923 to add a projection room at the rear of the stage to show rear projected films onto a translucent screen.

After the 1914-18 war, the theatre changed to cine-variety and then to a full-time cinema during 1924. The building was taken over during 1924 by Scottish Cinema and Variety Theatres Ltd., that was later absorbed into Associated British Cinemas (ABC) circuit.

The main entrance, photographed after the major restructuring of 1938.

Major changes were made to the building during 1938, when architects, Charles J. McNair and Henry F. Elder were commissioned by ABC to transform the building into a modern cinema of the 1930s, regretfully,  sweeping away the ornateness of Frank Matcham’s original designs.

The new modern circle foyer of the ABC Olympia, Bridgeton, Glasgow.

The auditorium had one of the balcony tiers removed which reduced the capacity to 1689 seats.

Stage facilities were also removed as a new proscenium was formed. Rich plaster work that incorporated troughs with concealed lighting and decorative grills on the splay walls. It now adopted the ABC house style with luxurious carpets and drapes.


The re-opening of the ABC Olympia Cinema took place on Monday 21st November 1938.

Locals remember that during the years of World War 2 when Pathe News featured Adolf Hitler on screen, there were jeers, whistle calls, stamping of feet and much booing. The patriotic audiences at the Olympia would dutifully stand to attention at the closing of the cinema programme each night when the national anthem was played to an accompanying image of the King.

As the 1940s heyday of cinema going passed, the following decade brought challenges for all large cinemas that were top heavy with operating costs. CinemaScope was installed, but still the audiences declined.

A rainswept ABC Savoy Cinema in 1954.

During 1963, the cinema was re-branded simply as ABC, which was in line with a UK policy of dropping the additional name of Olympia.

The cinema eventually closed on Saturday 9th March 1974. The final film shown was ‘Enter the Dragon, starring Bruce Lee and John Saxon.

On 23rd March 1977, Historic Scotland gave a Grade B Listed building on the façade.

From 1978 it was used as a bingo hall when County Bingo opened up one of their clubs on the premises, followed by a furniture store. When the store closed in 2000, it lay empty and in a dilapidated condition for several years and eventually badly fire damaged.

With support from the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Regeneration Fund, Clyde Gateway bought the building in September 2009.

Demolition began in June 2011. The Grade B original façade was retained in order to maintain its memorable entertainment contribution to the surrounding area.

Yet another lease of life for the façade, steeped in local entertainment history.

Following the 18 month makeover (the original construction took just six months) a series of stacked open plan spaces have been inserted into the void once occupied by the main auditorium. These sit behind the retained sandstone façade whilst the principle ground floor space has been given over to Bridgeton Library. The multi million pound project also includes offices & leisure interests.