In The Red: It was all a long time ago, in a Glasgow far, far away…


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The Independent Online

The Odeon cinema in Glasgow's Renfield Street used to be the spool around which spun the highlight reel of Glasgow's weekend. It was Saturday night glamorous: heavy carpets, torches in the darkness; buckets of Spielberg and booming magic, slamming you back into your seat. In my hindsight, its opulence makes whichever omni-screened multiplexes we now patronise seem as drab as the business parks they inhabit. Back in the day, if you were Glaswegian and going to the pictures, you probably went to the Odeon.

I saw Star Wars there, as a kid, on opening night and I remember that when our black cab pulled up at the front door of the cinema, so desperate was I to get out that I tripped over my sister's leg and did a perfect Charlie Chaplin face-plant on to the pavement.

After the movie, I can only assume I whined with sufficient gusto to ensure that my Mum bought me a Star Wars ruler, with May The Force Be With You printed along its spine. And this was very fine indeed.

Anyway, I was back in Glasgow for a wedding a couple of weeks ago and left our hotel to go and pick up my hired kilt. On the way, I rounded the corner into Renfield Street and was stopped in my steps like the pavement was jam. The Odeon was dead. Still there, but lifeless.

Like the businessman who returns to his childhood village in Cinema Paradiso, only to find his favourite movie theatre boarded up, I stood across the road from the derelict façade, its huge bank of doors, through which punters used to stream, chattering about the movie, now nailed into darkened inactivity by sheets of chipboard slathered with fluorescent posters for club nights and drinks promotions at bars round the corner.

The one crumb of positivity was that it hadn't been appropriated by a pub chain. And in Glasgow, where new bars come and go like travelling circuses, this was a blessing. It may have been empty, but at least it still had its name.

Not having lived in Glasgow for 16 years, I assumed its closure was recent, a result of the recession but, when I later asked our taxi driver when the cinema had shut, he said it had happened over 10 years ago: just another victim of multiplex appeal.

But, although the site of that slick old building in disrepair was a little sad, I absolutely refuse to be one of those greying luddites who bemoan the irrelevance of their past. It is what it is. No sense blubbing. But if you could just give me a moment. I think I have something in my eye.

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