Leith scheme backed

Flats plan approved for former art deco cinema

State Cinema Leith proposal

Artist’s impression of new apartments in former cinema


A former Art Deco cinema building in Leith will be turned into 36 apartments after developer Glencairn Properties received planning permission.

There will be a mix of three-bedroom, and one and two bedroom apartments. The existing commercial units to Great Junction Street are being retained under the existing ownership.

Glencairn, based in Stanhope St, Edinburgh, will restore the derelict Grade B listed former State Cinema building.

An unsightly warehouse building to the rear has been demolished to pave way for a five-storey residential building grouped around a south-facing courtyard.

Balconies will cantilever out and follow the curve of the Water of Leith, providing views across Coalie Park and towards to the Shore. Secure underground parking has been factored into the design as well as internal bicycle stores. 

The State Cinema closed in 1972 and has since been used as a bingo hall, a nightclub and a church. Glencairn Properties purchased the property last year, since when it has been loaned to the organisers of the fifth annual multi-arts Hidden Door Festival.

Commenting on the plans, Daryl Teague, director of Glencairn, said: “The State Cinema building really was not viable as a standalone venue moving forward. It had sat empty and derelict for years and had become a real eyesore. 

Former State cinema Leith

Former cinema today (pic: Terry Murden)


“We recognised an opportunity with this site with a vision is to help improve and enhance the area with a development that will appeal to those from Leith and those looking to move to the area as well as breathing new life into the original building.

“We have established a strong reputation for leading by design and we’re confident that our plans for this Great Junction Street development will provide innovative homes that will reference and preserve the history of the building.

Consultants on the application were ISA Architects and Scott Hobbs Planning.

State cinema in its hey-day (scottishcinema.org)


The State cinema building was designed by architect Sir James Miller and opened in December 1938, part of a multi-use leisure development that incorporated shops, two billiard halls, and a skittle alley. 

Its opening night featured Madeleine Carroll in Blockade and Gene Autry in Boots and Saddles.

It could seat 1,650 patrons, of whom 450 were on the raised portion behind the stalls. The cinema closed in 1972 after showing Richard Burton in Where Eagles Dare and it became a Mecca bingo hall.

In 1995 it was B-listed by Historic Scotland, although nothing of the original features remain.

In 2002 it was turned into the Babylon nightclub, which closed two years later. It continues to have a number of uses, including the Kingdom Church.

In February 2005 plans were proposed by Glasgow-based developer Walter Barratt to demolish the auditorium and retain the facade and foyer as an entrance to a new block of flats on the site. There was also a plan for a restaurant along the Water of Leith side of the building.

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