As any film buff in the city will take great pride in explaining to you, Glasgow was once one of Britain’s great cinema cities – by the end of the 1940s it boasted 114 in all, with a total seating capacity of more than 175,000. Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), originally called the Cosmo until 1973, opened in 1939 as Scotland’s first arthouse cinema, and only the second purpose-built arthouse cinema in Britain after the Curzon Mayfair in London.
Today, it remains effectively Glasgow’s last arthouse cinema – the number of picture houses in the city having rapidly dwindled in the second half of the twentieth century. But it’s in rude health these days, as a non-profit organisation supported by Glasgow City Council, under the umbrella of Glasgow Film. A third screen was added to the GFT in 2013 to maximise capacity, particularly during the booming annual Glasgow Film Festival every February, for which it operates as the main hub cinema and buzzes with premieres and events.
It’s no exaggeration to say that discerning cinema-goers will always find something to see at GFT – from arthouse and foreign-language gems, to independent documentaries, late night cult screenings and classics back on the big screen. More than that, GFT is always an experience to visit purely in and of itself. From the dramatic exterior – a brown brick, geometric, windowless façade inspired by Dutch modernist architecture – to the deliciously retro interior, particularly the sweeping 394-seat main cinema, it’s truly unique. The loss of Café Cosmo, the GFT’s café-bar space, to make way for the third screen was unfortunate, and has left the GFT without a substantial social space. But there remains the smaller upstairs bar – so you can still enjoy a beer while watching cinema at its very finest.