Victoria Cinema: The Silver Screen comes to town

The silver screen first came to Inverurie in the 1920s when Alfred Young started a cinema in the Town Hall . In 1934, on hearing that another exhibitor was interested in building a rival cinema in the town he purchased a block of old houses and land at the top of West High Street on which to build a cinema. He employed Thomas Scott Sutherland who had just completed the Astoria Cinema in Kittybrewster, a suburb of Aberdeen, to design a 750 seat cinema. The architect reported that the site was not large enough for this size of a building so the plans were scaled down to a 500 seater.

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A view of inside the cinema

The construction was started but was only half built when Mr Young reported that he had run out of money. A group of local investors (the Inverurie Cinema Company) was formed to finance the completion of the building with Scott Sutherland being the largest shareholder. This proved to be a profitable project as the shareholders were repaid in five years from the opening date in 1935. The minor shareholders were bought out and the cinema was such a success that it was soon once again wholly owned by the Young family. Stephen Young succeeded his father as manager. In 1936 another son Albert (Bert) Young a talented musician took the tenancy of the shop which was part of the complex selling confectionery, tobacco and musical instruments.

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Victoria Cinema in the 1930s, showing Bert Young’s sweet shop

During the war years of the Forties the queues to see the pictures stretched up Victoria Street with two performances per night Monday to Saturday with a matinee on Saturday afternoons. Another son Freddie who had a shop in North Street became the chief projectionist .In the pre-war days the admission was 4pence for the matinee which featured the Pathé news followed by a short comedy film probably the Three Stooges or a Laurel and Hardy and then the main picture a cowboy drama or a crime film with dramatic chases and fights which sent us home chasing each other and shouting “ bang , bang you’re deid.”

A Pathé news broadcast

On maturity the double seats in the back row of the balcony at two shillings each became very popular with the more romantic customers. The ticket ladies or ushers changed to ice cream and confectionery sellers at half time. Because there were two continuous houses if you were late in going into the first house it was possible to stay on to watch the programme twice.

Victoria cinema was popular with young couples

Stephen Young retired in 1956 and the cinema was sold to Messers Donald of Aberdeen, to add to their cinema and theatre empire . Richard Jessiman who had taken over as the projectionist was appointed manager. With the advent of T.V , attendances dwindled and the cinema was turned into a Bingo Hall with occasional screening of films at the week ends.

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Mr Jessiman, manager, with one of the cinema’s projectors

The shop was turned into “The Auld Vic” a licenced bar to cater for the drouthy bingo customers. As the bingo craze diminished, the internal building, an art-deco masterpiece was reconstructed to become “Oscars” a themed night club before eventually being sold to Wetherspoons. The bar was renamed “The Gordon Highlander” in memory of the well- loved steam powered engine which over the years was serviced at the Inverurie Locomotive Works.

The Victoria Cinema on opening day in 1934

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