Cinema City: history brought to life with digital development

Profile photo of Julie By Julie
2 June 2014

Glasgow Film, comprising Glasgow Film Theatre and Glasgow Film Festival, is the west of Scotland’s leading independent cultural cinema.
Glasgow Film’s Cinema City project connects visitors and residents to the fascinating cinema heritage of the city. Back in the cinema-going heyday of the 1930s, Glasgow had more cinemas per head than anywhere else in the world, outside of the US. Today the city’s passion for the movies is still evident, with Glasgow boasting some of the busiest cinemas in the UK and Ireland.

Our Cinema City site is an exploration of Glasgow’s moving image history and with the assistance of AmbITion Scotland, we planned a full redesign of the site, introducing additional content across feature articles and bespoke videos examining the history of cinemas within the city, as well as a platform to present the wide range of cinema memories we have collected as part of this project.

In 2014, with Glasgow Film’s triple-anniversary of forty years of GFT; seventy-five years since The Cosmo opened on our Rose Street site and the tenth edition of Glasgow Film Festival, there is a great deal of interest within audiences about the history of our cinema – and cinema in general – in Glasgow. There has been significant local media coverage around this theme during GFF and at the point of GFT’s birthday in May.

The site was fully rebuilt by tictoc, our web agency, in a new CMS platform. Our previous site was not fully optimized for Apple users, using Flash in parts. We wanted to allow as much access as possible for all devices, so engaged with tictoc to rebuild the site in a new CMS, which all devices can use.

The build was completed in January 2014, but with Glasgow Film Festival taking place in February, we postponed the launch to allow staff time to populate the site with a vast array of content, such as specially-commissioned features, over 150 cinema memories, and three new videos exploring cinema-going throughout the years in the city centre, west end and at GFT.

Glasgow Film commissioned a range of film writers and historians to create special features on a range of related subjects for the new site. Key features published include ‘Glasgow Characters on the Big Screen’, ‘Madeleine – A Gothic Tale for Glasgow’, and ‘The Scottish Amateur Film Festival’.

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We worked with Gordon Barr of ScottishCinemas.org and Nicola Balkind, film critic and editor of ‘World Film Locations: Glasgow’, to map and publish the rich history of Glasgow’s historic cinemas and film locations in the city – including Hollywood blockbusters Cloud Atlas, World War Z and The Fast and the Furious 6 – and plot them on reskinned Google Maps, which were embedded into the site.

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One of the key features of the Cinema City site is gathering memories from audiences about their most inspirational and treasured moments at the cinema. We are about to embark on a cinema heritage project, enlisting volunteers to gather memories from local residents to gain a comprehensive portrait of cinema going throughout the twentieth century. The stories will form part of an exhibition, developed with Summerlee Museum, to be staged during Glasgow Film Festival 2015 in a venue in Glasgow. The new Cinema City site will provide us with a platform to document the exhibition and share the memories collected online.

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As we prepare to launch our new Cinema City site, we will continue to encourage audience members to share their memories with us, we will produce in-house content and add new filming locations to the site as they arise.

We hope that in the coming years, Glasgow Film’s Cinema City site will become a resource for film and history enthusiasts, both locals and visitors to the city. Through using this platform, Glasgow Film will continue to engage with cinema audiences throughout the city and beyond, to create a rich picture of their stories and special cinema moments as well as allowing their memories to keep long-closed landmark Glasgow cinemas alive.

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