How our changing entertainment needs affect Edinburgh’s architecture guide, Table Gaming, blackjack, craps

How Our Changing Entertainment Needs Affect Edinburgh’s Architecture?

29 April 2022

The buildings that once housed our favourite leisure options are among the finest pieces of architecture in Edinburgh and all across the UK. How do our changing needs and tastes affect these wonderful buildings and what big changes have this led to?

Changing entertainment needs affect Edinburgh architecture
photo source: Geograph

The Rise and Fall of Cinemas and Bingo Halls

A look around the streets of Edinburgh reveals a wide variety of buildings that were once cinemas but that have now been converted into houses, hotels and churches among other things. Edinburgh’s lost cinemas like like the George in Portobello and the New Victoria on Clerk Street were once among the most visually interesting buildings in the capital, and many of these old cinemas still retain fascinating features that remind us of their history, while others are hidden behind new facades and modern signs.

A variety of factors caused a decline in the cinema industry that led to closures and conversions of these businesses. The arrival of home televisions and then videos certainly played a part in this, as people were able to stay at home and watch movies or shows. Just as important was the trend for moving picture houses out of the centre and to modern, purpose-built locations like Fountain Park and Ocean Terminal. Having said that, the presence of traditional cinemas like the Dominion and the Cameo ensure that it has more long-running cinemas, with original features than the majority of British cities.

Another feature of the mid-20th century was the switching of cinemas to an alternative use as bingo halls, as this game gained popularity at the same time that cinema attendances dropped for the reasons we just looked at. This led to a relatively smooth switch of purpose, with the buildings being left relatively unscathed in the process, as is the case with the former Capitol Cinema in Leith. In recent times, the bingo industry has closed many of its halls, which has led to these buildings being put to different uses again.

Changing entertainment needs affect Edinburgh architecture
photo : Jenners Store Princes St Edinburgh 2 (CC BY 2.0) by ahisgett

The Switch to Online Entertainment

The switch to online entertainment is more recent than the issues mentioned above, and its effects on Edinburgh’s architecture are sure to become more apparent over time. One area where this has already been seen is in the bingo halls we looked at a moment ago, with the popularity of online bingo leading to players finding a new way of playing that suits them. The appeal of online shopping has also partially driven changes in iconic stores like Jenners on Princes Street, with David Chipperfield Architects reporting plans to renovate one of the centre’s most interesting buildings as a more modern hospitality and shopping hub.

We can also see signs of the casino industry growing online, with online casino offers such as a 100% deposit match bonus up to £50 for new players, over 450 games can be played in this way and members can than pick up deals like free spins for ongoing deposits, meaning that they can carry on playing slots and table games online. Since Edinburgh doesn’t have a particularly strong reputation for large, architecturally interesting casinos, this changing approach shouldn’t have too much effect on the industry.

The cinema is another area where the online revolution could have an impact. As we’ve looked at earlier, the capital still has a variety of cinemas that are a mixture of older buildings and more modern developments. Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime give film fans an alternative way of watching and provide another challenge for the historic cinemas that have been around for decades. While some may be forced to close, the fact that others focus on art house movies and other niche categories should help them to survive.

It’s reassuring to note that the spectacular architecture that was created to house Edinburgh’s earliest cinemas has largely been preserved by adapting the buildings to our changing leisure needs. However, there are sure to be fresh challenges ahead to be aware of.

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Edinburgh Architecture

Rowanbank Gardens, Corstorphine
Rowanbank Gardens Housing Edinburgh
Rowanbank Gardens Edinburgh Housing

West Town Vision
West Town Edinburgh property development site
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West Town Edinburgh Property Vision

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