Question mark on old Kirkcaldy cinema is down... but what’s happening next?

Forging ahead: Grant (centre) with his supporters and the new banner now pinned above the entrance to the old cinema he wants to bring back into use
Forging ahead: Grant (centre) with his supporters and the new banner now pinned above the entrance to the old cinema he wants to bring back into use

The question mark pinned to the canopy outside the town’s old cinema has been taken down.

In its place is a banner urging support for the Kings Theatre project.

The change isn’t just symbolic – it marks a significant milestone in the bid to transform a building that has been locked up and largely forgotten about for 16 years.

The doors to the old ABC Cinema closed in 2000.

A venue which once had queues snaking along the High Street and down the wynd to see the latest movies, fell into disuse after the Odeon took it over and then closed it prior to opening a multiplex in Dunfermline, leaving Kirkcaldy – a town that once boasted numerous cinemas – without a dedicated picture house.

Now, the building has changed hands, and the team behind an ambitious vision to turn it into a 2000-seat auditorium can begin in earnest.

It now has outright ownership of the old cinema, the YWCA which sits behind it, and also the adjoining shop.

The next step is to make them wind and watertight – that work will begin immediately.

And as scaffolding starts to go up, local folk can begin to look ahead to the possibility of a major arts venue in the very heart of town.

The Kings Theatre would have the potential to bring some of the biggest names to town thanks to a capacity which is several times larger than the long-established Adam Smith Theatre.

It would also be a major game-changer for the east end of the High Street.

As part of Kirkcaldy’s Ambitions’ blueprint, the aim is to rebrand it the Merchants’ Quarter to highlight not only the range of traders already in business, but also to tap into the work being done by the Adam Smith Global Foundation in reclaiming the legacy of the renowned economist and philosopher.

In September it is due to open the doors to One Adam Smith Close following a major refurbishment programme.

Could the cinema be the next building to undergo a transformation?

The landmark deal to secure ownership came thanks to funding from John Sim – the latest project he has supported in his home town.

Mr Sim, whose late father, the Rev John Sim was minister at the Old Kirk from 1960 to 1986, has already stepped in to help Raith Rovers, the Old Kirk Trust and the Global Foundation.

He is now backing Grant Foster and the team bidding to make the Kings Theatre a reality.

They had originally looked at leasing the building, but that threw up a number of hurdles, including making it more difficult when it came to bidding for funding, and so they opted to control it outright.

With a deal in place, they can now start the major task of clearing out the debris, and then looking to the future.

And they are wasting no time – they plan to have the building gutted by the middle of October!

Grant explained: “That will allow us to put on some exciting Hallowe’en fundraising events.

“We will also have some interesting items and artefacts that, once we have catalogued, we can exhibit and then auction.’’

Those moves will also help the team to get people involved in the project – and raise awareness of their long-term aims.

Mr Sim is in no doubt of the theatre’s huge potential – and it is a project he has encouraged the town to support.

He said “This is a very ambitious project but occasionally if you dream and work hard you will be amazed by what can be achieved.

“I have already seen this with the Old Kirk Trust and the Adam Smith Global Foundation. The key is to have the right people making it happen. Grant and his team have worked tirelessly on this, and not been deterred by apathy or rejection. We owe it to them and to the town to give him our support and see just what can be done with a historic part of Kirkcaldy’s Merchants Quarter.”

Mr Sim’s backing has also been pivotal to the project’s progress; the fact that workmen are now due on site is an indication of the speedbehind the scenes.

Added Grant: “Thanks to John, we now have full control over the entire site, and work is starting immediately to make the building wind and watertight with scaffolding needed to start the work is going up this week.

“This is a long term project that will bring immeasurable benefits to Kirkcaldy, and through strong partnerships, assist in bolstering Fife’s creative output.”

He also paid tribute to all the organisations and individuals who have backed him.

“We would give a heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in getting us to this stage – in particular Lauren Daly and Nigel Ford of Fords Daly Solicitors, who have been assisting us right from the inception of this vision.”

“We would not have been able to progress if it wasn’t for their expertise.

“The work starts now to make a much loved & renowned building part of the town again.”