GFT Blog: 80 Years of Cinema


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In 1939, Glaswegians were the UK’s biggest fans of cinema – they went to the cinema an average of 51 times a year, compares to 35 times for the rest of Scotland and 21 in England. In the same year, the Cosmo, Scotland’s first art-house cinema - and only the second purpose-built art-house cinema in Britain - first opened its doors on Rose Street to show ‘films of a specialised appeal’. In 1974, under new ownership, the cinema was renamed Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), as it is today. 

Join in the 80 Years of Cinema celebrations at GFT from Thursday 9 May – Sunday 12 May to mark the legacy of film on Rose Street, and look forward to more exciting cinematic innovations to come.

My first visit to the Cosmo was in 1964 to see the film Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. It made me feel a very sophisticated young woman as foreign films were then shown late at night. With our best bouffant hair, multiple layers of starched net under our skirts - not forgetting the lashings of green eye shadow and the ubiquitous pale pink lipstick - we felt we were the '60s incarnate! Many, many films later and, with a radically altered idea of 'chic', I am thrilled  to be part of the happy, welcoming and inclusive team that is the GFT.

Ann Burns
GFT Volunteer

In the years I have worked at GFT I have seen some amazing and often endearing sides to film viewing and our special events. On one occasion, I had a sold out screening in the cinema immediately after a screening of Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata.  I hadn’t seen the film at the time and wasn’t aware of the very moving portrayal of the mother/daughter relationship that was unfolding while I held back 400 people from entering the cinema for the next event. I had planned to go into the screen to announce that customers should leave immediately after the film. As I moved to the front of the screen and the lights came up, I saw that literally every person in the cinema was sitting crying in their seats. At this stage I abandoned my planned speech and allowed them some quiet time as they exited the cinema, all very visibly moved from their experience at GFT! 

On another night when I was a new duty manager (many years ago), a customer came out of the cinema telling me we were showing the wrong film. This turned out to be true but when I went in to check, the audience were totally absorbed in the film which we were showing – it was a Hitchcock season and we had been meant to show the 1936 film Sabotage but somehow ended up with the 1942 Saboteur instead! At the end we spoke to the audience who had all been aware it was the wrong film but had totally enjoyed the experience nonetheless!

Angela Freeman
Senior Front of House Manager

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The first time I came to GFT was to watch Superman on 35mm with an additional 4 minutes of footage! As someone who loves the Richard Donner Superman films I was super excited to see this on the big screen on film, old school style. I didn’t know Glasgow all that well having recently moved here and I was still commuting through to Edinburgh, so my free time to go to the cinema was limited. It was in cinema 1 - I was sitting bang in the centre and I settled in. What remains with me, aside from the print’s very pink first reel and me not even noticing where the extra footage might be, was how many people were in that screening all with the same excited, anticipatory glee. This was a movie-lover’s paradise. A welcoming space where all types of films were appreciated and where geeks like me could come and watch old prints of beloved films. Since that first experience I’ve seen countless films in GFT, but there will always be a special place in my heart for that Superman screening. I clapped at the end, as did everyone. It wasn’t so much a clap for the film, more an acknowledgment of how great it was to experience it once more in that rare place.

Gavin Crosby
Design and Digital Coordinator

GFT memories are hard to choose from; would it be the first time my mum brought me to watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the first time of what have been 100 times since. Or watching a feature film that had been a friend’s prized project for years? Or the first time you proudly get to introduce someone new to the venue, and see their astonishment at this sometimes hidden gem of Glasgow. Perhaps most of all though would be in my role as Children and Young People’s Coordinator, during our schools programme we invite thousands – thousands – of young people through our doors each year. This year we showed Muppets Christmas Carol to over 300 primary school pupils, who all joined in a song of 'Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer' before the show. Watching the next generation of cinema goers with their popcorn and uninhibited joy of sharing cinema was an absolute highlight!

Becca McSheaffrey
Children and Young People’s Coordinator 

I arrived in Glasgow in 2010 to study European Cinema, so it was only fitting that my first cinema experience in the city was a visit to GFT to watch the restored version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It screened in Cinema 1 and I remember being so taken by the beauty of the space - definitely one of the loveliest cinemas I’d ever been in! Shortly after that screening I visited GFT again as part of Doors Open Days and had a peek inside the projection booth and other not yet discovered spaces in the building. I remained a loyal visitor throughout the years, so it was an incredible moment to me when I got to join the Glasgow Short Film Festival team in 2014. GFT has been a second home in Glasgow ever since. 

Sanne Jehoul
GSFF Producer / Programmer

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My love of films and the cinema and GFT in particular started later than most people realise. Back at the start of this new millennium, I started to get braver at going to cinema on my own, and I had a friend who was willing to go to some of my stranger choices of movies.  I cannot remember who exactly found details of a movie called Curse of the Golden Flower – the movie was not one of the best but it was the closing gala of the Glasgow Film Festival.  We were both amazed a film festival on our own doorstep, we looked at the programme and were hooked.  The next year and every year since then I have taken annual leave from work and film festival has become the highlight of my calendar.  I joke that Christmas is just the start of the countdown to Glasgow Film Festival. 

Glasgow Film Festival has expanded my horizons for movies and my enjoyment.  It also slowly introduced me to more of the staff at GFT and eventually I took the plunge and started to volunteer.  One movie, even if it is not the best, you have seen can be the key to a whole new world  

Claire Ronald
GFT Volunteer

I was pretty late with coming to the GFT and was only introduced to the cinema through my University.  I studied Media and specialised in film and radio so for one of my classes we had a trip to Glasgow to see the Icelandic film Jar City. I only lived in Prestwick so not a million miles away but just walking through the doors I knew I was going to love coming here.  This then opened my eyes to a cinema that had more arthouse films, something that didn’t exist back home.  When the job came up to work at the GFT I handed in my CV and hoped for the best and now I can say I work in Development.  I feel really proud to say I work for the GFT and all the work that goes into ensuring cinema for all.  It’s not just a cinema for our audience but it’s their sanctuary to take time out and get lost in film.   

Lorna Sinclair
Development Manager

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GFT holds a special place in my heart – I’ve worked here for over 25 years, I met my future husband here and I’ve seen the team here at GFT grow and help GFT to develop into the what I consider the best cinema in the world.

One of my lasting memories is of watching Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children just after returning from three months of maternity leave. It was a stunning experience watching it in Cinema 1 as I hadn’t really had much time to catch up on films as a new mum. It was also a slightly harrowing choice to watch a surreal film about a dystopian society where children are kidnapped... However I enjoyed the time spent in the dark with the wonderful characters and stunningly designed sets. To this day nothing de-stresses me quicker than a couple of hours immersed in a different world where the outside world falls away, it really is a remarkable experience and why cinema (and this cinema in particular) will always be here.

Allison Gardner
Programme Director/Glasgow Film Festival Co-director

From Thursday 9 May - Sunday 12 May, GFT celebrates 80 Years of Cinema on Rose Street with a selection of free screenings open to all.  Tell us your favourite GFT memories on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below! 

#80YearsOfCinema


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