NEW life is being breathed into Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema amid plans for it to host its own annual film festival.

In the wake of a £3.5 million revamp, the 104-year-old Campbeltown Picture House will take centre stage at the Scottish Comedy Film Festival (SCOFF) in May 2018.

The festival, still in its planning stages, will feature archive footage, new and recent comedy, animation and comedy short films, as well as special movie events, and some live shows.

Plans to revamp the A-listed 1930s building in Argyll and Bute have been in train since 2009 and will see the addition of a second screen as well as the the introduction of a cafe, education room and other facilities.

Jane Mayo, chair of Campbeltown Community Business, which runs the Picture House, said research had shown that it is likely that every tourist who stays in the town for two nights, one night would be spent watching a movie at the cinema.

She said the cinema organisers had been heartened by the success of small cinemas elsewhere in Scotland, notably the Birks Cinema in Aberfeldy and The Tower in Helensburgh.

“We have been very conservative in our estimates in our business plan, and we think it will work just fine,” she said.

“We will be open 364 days of the year, two screens, and for holiday makers and those on the whisky tours, it will something more for them to do.”

Ms Mayo added: “We plan to have the Comedy Film Festival every year, it was part of our plan for the restoration, and there will be an event at the end of January, too.

“The local reaction has been so positive, we had 500 people into the open weekend last weekend.” She said the affection that the cinema holds for the local community was exemplified by a recent visit by the son of the cinema’s projectionist for many years.

“He was in tears when he saw the restoration,” she said, “it is inspiring.”

Designed by Albert V. Gardner – one of the most celebrated cinema designers in the first half of the 20th century – Campbeltown Picture House opened in 1913.

Gardner had studied architecture at The Glasgow School of Art between 1901 and 1905, and the influence of that building is reflected in the Glasgow School Art Nouveau design of the 1913 building.

Twenty years later Gardner was invited back to Campbeltown to modernise the interior of the cinema which he did in the “atmospheric” style which was in vogue at that time.

The style involved painting murals on the walls, like theatre scenery – they were often painted with starry skies, clouds, trellises, balconies and trees.

Few of these cinemas now survive with Campbeltown Picture House being the only extant example in Scotland and one of only a handful in Europe.

In Campbeltown, the cinema has a sky with moving white clouds projected across it, and two plasterwork buildings on either side of the screen.

In the revamp, these have been restored, as well as the art deco lights.

“We are incredibly proud to have such an historically significant building here in Campbeltown and delighted to have been able to restore it to its original glory,” Ms Mayo added.

The restoration has had a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and grants from Coastal Communities Fund, Creative Scotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Historic Environment Scotland, Argyll & Bute Council, The Robertson Trust, Architectural Heritage Fund and many others.