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Just Janice: why I miss the glamour of those old movie theatres

Along with many folk from Glasgow and beyond, I felt a pang of regret on hearing that the long-closed Odeon cinema in the city centre is to be demolished. 

The Odeon Cinema on Renfield Street closed its doors in 2006
The Odeon Cinema on Renfield Street closed its doors in 2006

Soon it will share the fate of The Seamore, Tivoli, Astoria, Plaza, Vogue - even the names of those old picture-houses evoke excitement, glamour and a sense of occasion. They may be buildings no more, but they’re vivid in the memories of a generation of Glaswegians who went to the cinema more often than people anywhere else in the world.

My grandfather was a projectionist - at the Cosmo, I think - and my grandmother was a film addict, seeing several features a week, many more than once - thus enabling her to supply lines of dialogue to her companion just before they were uttered on-screen. A spoilers pioneer, my grandma.

My recollection of landmark films is all wrapped up in memories of the buildings, the atmosphere - Towering Inferno and Earthquake on the ABC's huge screen; Cabaret at the intimate Salon in Vinicombe Street when I was a schoolgirl, and then hotfooting it to the Grosvenor Cafe with a pal to drink frothy coffee in a mature manner, while figuring out where we could find green nail varnish like Liza Minnelli’s.

And I didn’t imagine the Classic Grand in Jamaica Street, did I? A seedy melange of low lighting, threadbare carpets and worn red velvet seats, it really did show a mix of arthouse and porn, didn’t it? That’s where I had my first David Lynch experience - Eraserhead, which I saw three times (grandma would’ve been proud) and Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane - a gay film in Latin with subtitles and full-frontal nudity. “Ecce homo” took on new resonances back in Latin class at school.

Two-Lane Blacktop in New York; Angelheart in Amsterdam; Do the Right Thing in L.A. - I remember the cinemas as clearly as the films. So, as we lose the Odeon, it’s great to hear that my favourite, the Glasgow Film Theatre (the old Cosmo) is expanding, with plans for a third screen. Badlands, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Tenant, 1900 - they’re all forever associated with the GFT for me.

Entertainment bargain of the week has to be Glasgow for Gaza, the comedy night at the Stand on Monday.  For just a tenner, you’ll be entertained by Raymond Mearns, Bruce Morton, Stu Who, Gary Little, Mark Nelson, Viv Gee and Billy Kirkwood.

Money raised at the event will be split between the three charities organising appeals through the Disasters Emergency Committee to help people affected by the recent violence in Gaza. Doors open at 7.30pm, showtime 8.30pm.

And I’ll be getting into the festive spirit - oh yes I will etc - with a visit to Cinderella at the King’s Theatre.  It’s always a spectacular show, but a big attraction is the brilliant Gavin Mitchell, who’s proving himself to be a worthy successor to the Scottish panto greats who’ve graced that stage over the decades. And he looks fab in a frock.

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