Just like Bathgate, Armadale had its own Regal Theatre.
The Regal Theatre, Armadale, was opened on Saturday, 4 December 1937 to replace The Star Theatre on North Street.
It was designed by architect Andrew David Haxton (1878 – 1960) who also designed the Regal in Bathgate and it sat up to 1,250 in its audience.
Although it housed the most modern lighting equipment of its time, it served not only as a cinema, but also as a theatre as it had dressing rooms. Well-known performers such as Harry Gordon and Harry Lauder appeared at The Regal, but home-grown talent also entertained, such as the company of Armadale Co-operative Dramatic Club* and Armadale Choral Society. It was a popular venue for all ages whether families on an evening out, courting couples watching the latest film, or children attending the ever-popular Children’s Saturday and Christmas matinees (e.g. Elmo the Mighty, The Iron Man, Houdini). The evening programme was changed twice weekly and, occasionally, it included live variety acts as well as films.
Ian Ross told about life as a projectionist at the Regal Theatre in ‘Behind the flickering spotlight’, in HAA’s Your magazine Issue No 9, June 1999:
“To become a projectionist you had to sign indenture papers and serve a three years’ apprenticeship. During this time you had to attend Bristo Technical Institute in Edinburgh, one day per week, where you were tutored to City and Guilds standard.
A Projectionist is in charge of heating, lighting and showing the film. The hours of work were from 9.00am to 12.00 noon, then in the evening, 4.00pm till 10.30pm. In the mornings your task was to take all the collected debris from the night before, including crisp packets, ice lolly wrappers, etc. and put them in the heating boiler. You then had to go out to the back yard, barrow the amount of coal needed to replenish the bunker, and keep the boiler stoked up. After this, the rest of the morning was spent cleaning light fittings, replacing bulbs and checking the wiring. The boiler was replaced by an oil fired system in the mid 1960s and the coal system was not missed by me, I can tell you. On Monday and Thursday mornings, time was spent unpacking and preparing the films for showing.”
He commented about the cleanliness of Armadale’s Regal Theatre in those days and then described his busy evenings.
“Each film that arrives is made up of anything from four to six or even more reels and each reel lasts about twenty minutes. By the time you have laced up a new reel and rewound the one just used, it is time to change another one. This is done by using two projectors, a series of cue marks and numbered leaders….. The first mark tells the projectionist to start the projector and the second one tells him to change over. This is done by flicking one switch on the projector to open the shutter and another switch on the wall to transfer the sound. The projectors were ‘Gaumont Kalee 21’. They were about six feet high and the arc lighting stretched back about four feet. The projector arc lighting was controlled by two mercury bulbs in a transformer housed in a room of its own. The light was created by two carbon rods about ½” apart, this gave off a light three times brighter than a welding rod.”
The last film shown at The Regal was “That the way it is“. The Regal closed on the 3 June 1972. Although it was bought by Armadale Burgh Council, and many options were considered for its use, from 1977 onwards, demolition seemed inevitable. In 1980, a local Action Group was formed in the hope that the building could be saved and restored for much-needed community use. However, in 1983, the building was finally demolished.
Read more at Armadale.org.uk here