It is hard to imagine today but Paisley once enjoyed a golden age of cinema. Going to the cinema was so popular among locals that there were picture houses across the town. At one point there were eight operating at the same time. Today, little remains of them and Paisley’s movie fans must travel to the town’s outskirts to visit their nearest local cinema. The last town centre cinema closed more than 25 years ago and a recent plan to build a new community cinema is taking time to bear fruit.

The building that housed the Regal Cinema was demolished in 2009, leaving the entrance to the Paisley Centre as the last trace of a cinematic era that began almost 100 years earlier, when the Royal Animated Pictures opened at Paisley Cross in 1910. By the 1920s, Paisley residents were part of a worldwide phenomenon as Hollywood cinema was booming in popularity globally.

Enthusiasm for the silver screen meant more cinemas were required to meet the demand. The Palladium opened on Weighhouse Close in 1910, while the Astoria appeared on Lawn Street in the same year. The High Street featured three venues: the Picture House opened in 1912, La Scala in 1921, and The Regal in 1934. If that wasn’t enough, the West End Cinema was established in the West End in the early 1920s. The New Alex was built on Orr Street in 1923 and the Kelburne opened its doors on Glasgow Road in 1933.

The bingo hall craze in Paisley

With so many cinemas competing for customers and following the rise of television, it was no surprise that some of the venues struggled to survive. A new craze for bingo resulted in the three High Street cinemas being converted into bingo halls. Bingo was popular throughout the 1960s and 70s, but by the 1980s both La Scala and the Picture House bingo venues had closed. The Regal remained a bingo hall until 2006 and was demolished three years later.

The future of bingo halls in Paisley is uncertain, but thanks to the internet, online bingo is as popular as ever. In fact, it has become a phenomenon with a real sense of community. The move to the internet means sites like Buzz Bingo can offer not only bingo but also casino favourites such as blackjack and video slot games like action bank slot. However, there is still hope that another Paisley town centre cinema will open one day.

New cinema hopes for Paisley

An attempt to revive the town centre cinema was made by the Paisley Community Trust (PCT) in 2021. They hoped to buy the Bargain Buys building, the site of the La Scala cinema, to create a five-screen complex with community facilities including a bar, restaurant, and rooftop café. This plan stalled but the Paisley Community Trust continue to work to bring cinema back to Paisley High Street.

Some of Paisley’s other former cinemas have changed so much that there seems to be little chance of them showing films again. The West End Cinema was converted to a pool hall for a while. However, that venture ended in demolition, and an apartment complex stands in its place. The now-defunct Palladium is the site of the Paisley Centre Car Park. The Kelburne cinema suffered a fire in 1988 and the land was later used for housing. Although these sites of Paisley’s golden age of cinema may have changed beyond recognition, they are certainly not forgotten. They remain an important part of the local community’s history.