MSPs pledge their support for independent cinema as Glasgow Film Theatre celebrates anniversary year

Yesterday evening (Thursday 8 February 2024), Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT) launched its anniversary year celebrations with a special reception at the Scottish Parliament hosted by Glasgow Kelvin MSP and Minister (designate) for Culture, Europe and International Development, Kaukab Stewart, where MSPs signed a pledge committing their support for independent cinemas showing independent films. Guests included filmmaker Paul Sng who also spoke at the event. 

The reception, attended by cross-party MSPs as well as Angus Robertson MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, marked multiple anniversaries for the cinema, which this year celebrates 85 years since it was built, 50 years since GFT was founded and the 20th edition of Glasgow Film Festival

The cinema, then known as the Cosmo, first opened its doors on Glasgow’s Rose Street on 18 May 1939. It was the second purpose-built arthouse cinema in the UK and the last cinema to be built in Scotland before the outbreak of the Second World War. Known for its iconic architecture and post-art deco interiors, the cinema was designed by James McKissack and WJ Anderson II, with the geometric windowless facade influenced by the work of leading Dutch modernist architect Willem Marinus Dudok. The building was B-listed by Historic Scotland in 1988. 

Kaukab Stewart MSP shows her support at the event, courtesy Eoin Carey & GFT

Since its inception, it has provided Glasgow with a window on the world. Top quality foreign-language cinema was central to the Cosmo’s programming as it remains for GFT’s today. The cinema opened with a screening of Julien Duvivier’s Un Carnet de Bal (1937). 

In 1974 the Cosmo Cinema was purchased by the Scottish Film Council and reopened on 2 May 1974 as the Glasgow Film Theatre with a screening of Frederico Fellini’s Roma. Now Scotland’s best attended independent cinema and a leading educational charity, GFT remains at the cutting edge of film exhibition, showing over 700 different titles a year from more than 60 countries. It is one of the few Scottish cinemas still equipped to project 35mm and 70mm film and is at the forefront of new technologies, with all three of its screens fitted with state-of-the-art projection equipment. 

GFT has been a formative cultural venue for generations of Glasgow’s artists, filmmakers and musicians. A springboard for new talent, the cinema runs talent development initiatives for emerging Scottish filmmakers, including the Young Scottish Filmmakers Prize and free Behind the Scenes events for 15-25 year-olds.  

Driven by a vision of ‘Cinema For All’, GFT is a pioneering leader in accessible cinema. It was the first cinema in Scotland to host Autism Friendly screenings - winning the Autism Friendly Award in 2017 - and the first cinema to regularly screen films with audio description. Today, the cinema programmes monthly autism-friendly, dementia-friendly and deaf-friendly screening events, as well as free weekly screenings for families, and is a vital community hub in the heart of Garnethill. 

To coincide with the cinema’s two anniversaries, GFT will mark its anniversary year with a celebratory programme of special screenings in May 2024, showcasing standout films that audiences have loved at GFT over the last five decades. Full details will be announced soon.

Allison Gardner, CEO of Glasgow Film, said: "It was with immense pride and great joy that we gathered to celebrate our three remarkable milestones and call for the continued support of independent cinemas and independent filmmaking. Independent cinema stands as a beacon of creativity, artistic freedom, and diversity. A diversity of voices fosters a richer tapestry of storytelling, representing a wide range of cultures, experiences, and viewpoints. Watching films gives you the ability to walk in another person’s shoes and they build empathy. And empathy is one of our greatest qualities to change the world for the better."

Kaukab Stewart, Glasgow Kelvin MSP and Minister (designate) for Culture, Europe and International Development, said: "GFT is a huge asset to the City of Glasgow and Scotland's wider culture sector, and I was delighted to host their reception to celebrate this last night. Last night's event was fantastic for demonstrating the positive impacts the cinema's activities have had on generations of audiences, film fans and filmmakers. I look forward to continuing to work alongside them in the future to further promote their Cinema For All experience."

Isabel Davis, Executive Director of Screen Scotland, said: "Glasgow Film Theatre exemplifies “Cinema For All”: through the transformative power of film, creation of inclusive spaces for audiences to come together and celebrating storytelling from around the world.

"Screen Scotland has provided significant and sustained support to GFT and Glasgow Film Festival so they can stay at the forefront of independent cinema in Scotland and the UK, amplifying diverse voices and embodying the collaborative spirit of cinema and enriching Glasgow's wider cultural landscape. This is all thanks to the dedication and passion of their staff and volunteers, who have provided a springboard for countless careers of filmmakers, artists, programmers and industry professionals alike."

More information

About Glasgow Film Theatre

GFT is operated by Glasgow Film, an educational charity which also runs the award-winning Glasgow Film Festival and Glasgow Youth Film Festival and is the lead organisation for Film Hub Scotland. GFT is the city’s original independent arthouse cinema and the home of film in Glasgow. Glasgow Film is funded by Creative Scotland, Screen Scotland and Glasgow City Council. 

About Glasgow Film  

Glasgow Film is an educational charity which runs Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), Scotland’s original independent arthouse cinema and the home of film in Glasgow; Glasgow Film Festival (GFF), one of the UK’s leading public celebrations of cinema; and Glasgow Youth Film Festival (GYFF), a fast-growing international three-day festival co-curated by teenage film-lovers in the city. Glasgow Film is also the lead organisation for Film Hub Scotland, a membership organisation that supports more than 200 exhibitors across the country. GFT was awarded Accessibility Champion at the SCoD Star Awards 2016 and became the first UK cinema to scoop the Autism Friendly Award 2017. 

As one of the UK’s leading independent cinemas, GFT plays an important part in the cultural life of Glasgow, screening a wide variety of international cinema, classic films and documentaries, alongside locally made work and material aimed at a range of community groups. GFT also has a strong education programme of outreach, courses and school screenings.