top of page

The Broadway Cinema opened on the 29th of April 1935 as Prestwick's new super cinema!

The Broadway brought the magic of film to the town during the golden age of cinema and stood as a pillar of the community for decades. Here we look back into the Broadway's past, from laying the foundations in the 1930s to laying new foundations in the present day.

Let's take a trip back in time!



Click images to view them more closely!



A new wave of excitement rushed across Scotland from the 1920s to the 1930s as cinema took off as one of the prime forms of entertainment available across the world. Throughout Scotland, new custom-built cinemas were being constructed in almost every major town, often beautifully designed in the exceedingly popular architectural style of the time, Art Deco. Prestwick Picture House (locally known as the Bug Hut) had opened in the late 1920s as the town’s first cinema, however greater plans were put in place for Prestwick by well-respected London-born architect Alister Gladstone MacDonald.

Alister, although born in London, was the eldest son of Scottish politician James Ramsay MacDonald, who went on to become Britain’s first ever Labour prime minister.

The Broadway Cinema in 1935.

Alister studied in America for many of his younger years, specifically studying skyscrapers and sound insulation design in New York and Hollywood, before returning to the UK to become the leading architect of newsreel cinemas in Britain. His most famous designs were at Victoria and Waterloo train stations in London, although sadly his plans for cinemas in Glasgow Central and Edinburgh Waverley stations never came to fruition. He also designed numerous cinemas for the Caledonian Associated Cinemas group in Scotland, including the Playhouses in Peebles, Montrose, and Elgin.

Alister Gladstone MacDonald.jpg
James Ramsay MacDonald.

Come 1934, it was Prestwick’s turn. When it came to designing the Broadway, Alister MacDonald created a beautiful and symmetrical Art Deco façade design, with a recessed three storey tower as the central section flanked by two storey wings curving in to meet it. The front entrance features four sets of double doors beautifully glazed in Art Deco, set back from the street by a golden terrazzo floor. The entrance is flanked by four shop units, two on each side, which also featured upon construction matching Art Deco glazing to the cinema itself. Shop unit two still retains most of its original features including an identical ceiling design to the Broadway’s café, now The Chocolate Box, this shop upon opening was originally a tobacconist!

The vertical central tower was built largely of reconstituted stone with two sets of three narrow window bays on both the first floor and second floor of the building, and at the top of the tower was a large wooden Broadway sign coloured in red and gold. In contrast to the stone of the central section, the wings of the façade and rear of the building were constructed from traditional red brick, with the windows on the wings curving in towards the central tower and featuring the same Art Deco glazing as the entrance doors below. The interior of the Broadway continued the beautiful Art Deco theme of the façade to create a grand and special atmosphere throughout the cinema. The Broadway was designed with a pleasantly wide and deep foyer area, with the central dark wood octagonal ticket booth as the wonderful signature feature. Doors at the rear of the foyer led directly to the rear stalls of the auditorium, with the grand staircase sweeping up at the right to the balcony foyer above and a secondary staircase to the left that reached the very top of the balcony. The upper section of the walls were white with gold flecked paint sparkling in the light shining from art deco light fittings on a beautiful light-coloured ceiling, with dark wood panelling adorning the lower half of the walls.

The balcony foyer featured the same design as the main foyer below, with a neat sloped ceiling and main entrance doors to the auditorium balcony. It also featured a cleverly designed lightwell to the foyer below, so patrons could stand and watch as the crowd swept in below them to the matinee. The lightwell was adjacent to the café and featured pleasant metal balustrades to prevent anyone falling into the void below! On the inside wall of the lightwell there was a beautifully decorated hand-painted scroll design featuring a line from Robert Burns’ famous poem ‘To a Louse’ - “O wad some power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us” - and the design although faded can still be made out to this day. The balcony foyer also featured restrooms, the manager’s office, the fire escape to the projection room and two routes of access to the café. The carpet in this area and surrounding areas was a gloriously striking Art Deco design with waves of yellow and pink!

The Broadway’s café was situated on the first floor above the main foyer, looking out on Main Street through the lower-level windows on the central tower. The café was decorated with a light floral wallpaper and luxurious wood panelling, the original furniture would have featured rattan seating and below the two internal windows on the wall adjacent to the balcony foyer’s lightwell there stood a faux fireplace. The café counter and equipment were neatly situated in a corner niche out the way and there was a glass clock above the fireplace flanked by art deco light fittings just below and the clock thankfully still stands today! At the opposite side to the counter there was a narrow kitchenette which featured uniquely a dumb waiter leading down to a main kitchen below, although this kitchen was not directly accessed by the cinema. The café’s catering was managed by the original sweetie shop of the cinema in shop unit one, operated by James Gardiner the shop had direct stair access up to the café and the dumb waiter provided perfect access for products to be exchanged in either direction!

Souvenir Programme Cover.JPG
Souvenir Programme Inside Page.JPG
Opening Night Advertisement.jpg

The auditorium of the Broadway held 1,060 seats and featured upon opening a wonderful colour scheme of stone and flame with flashes of red and blue. In the centre of the ceiling there was a large rectangular trough feature that ran up to the screen opening and featured scalloped internal edges and recessed lighting. Framing the screen opening were two deep proscenium arches, rectangular and shining bright focusing attention on the centre of the screen. Undoubtedly the most wonderfully unique and quirky details of the auditorium were six ceiling air vents designed with a camel motif! The camel has become an unofficial mascot of our project and thankfully all six of these air vents survive today and will be preserved for the Broadway’s future. The stage of the auditorium was unusually wide and deep for a cinema of the Broadway’s size, 36 feet across and 16 feet deep, and featured direct access from the basement below, stage left and right.

The basement of the Broadway included changing rooms for ladies and gents, a workshop, a water tank room and a boiler room. The boiler of the Broadway was a Beeston Robin Hood ‘New C’ pattern oil burner and would have powered at the time what was a state-of-the-art heating system. The boiler is still in place today and the workshop beside it remains as a time capsule with endless amounts of spare parts, cinema-era relics and even a vintage Pepsi sign from the café!

Speaking of time capsules, undoubtedly the Broadway’s most remarkable survival is the projection room. Virtually untouched since the last film showed in 1976, the projection room remains as a journey back in time with the projectors, sound equipment, lighting controls and everything else needed to screen 35mm film still in place. The original projectors were Ross-London models, supplied by a ECC mercury arc rectifier. At some time in the 1950s this equipment was upgraded and the Broadway’s brand new projectors were fitted, Gaumont-Kalee Type 20s with an additional upgrade to a selenium rectifier that was actually transferred to the Broadway from the Ritz Cinema in Ayr! Other items such as the tab warmer, film spools, rewind cranks, record players and even the wall-mounted telephone still remain firmly in place. Remarkably, although lying in pieces the original ‘Broadway’ sign from the façade’s tower was also still stacked in the corner!

The Broadway instantly became one of the region's premier picture houses. The cinema with a charm all its own.

Cinema Opening Clipping (1935)_edited_ed



Upon opening, the Broadway was an instant success and a shining jewel in Prestwick’s crown from the 30s to the 50s in what was known as the golden age of cinema throughout the world. Television was still rare to find in the homes of the working class until the mid 50s, and therefore one of the prime forms of entertainment at that time was to go to the pictures! Cinema provided an escape from day-to-day life, with the magic of film taking people of all ages on adventures into worlds unknown from their hometowns. The glamorous design and atmosphere of so many beautiful Art Deco cinemas made a visit an occasion to be remembered, and the Broadway brought this wonderful experience to the people of Prestwick time and time again, creating memories that live on today.

The Broadway Cinema in 1960.

Of all the genres of film that existed at the time, Westerns were one of the most popular, the excitement of a Wild West shootout starring legends of the screen like Clint Eastwood and John Wayne was unrivalled. Cinema featured a different format back then too, rather than paying for a single screening and seeing one movie, visitors would typically watch two screenings! The first would often be a shorter comedy piece, and after an advertisement break the main feature would follow later. If you perhaps missed the start of the film you could simply stay in your seat, and keep watching when the picture started again, leaving when you reached the scene you came in to! And the cinema experience was not only the film itself, most cinemas had a café or tea room adjacent to the auditorium and a sweetie shop usually next door on the street. Bringing all these elements together truly made the cinema a day out for anyone, whether you visited with your family, a group of friends, or on a date!

Caricature of Sir Alexander B. King.

Part of the success of cinema throughout the country was the affordability of it. Although the Broadway was the luxury cinema of the town, admission prices still ranged mostly between 1 and 3 shillings depending on your seat, in fact when the Broadway first opened you could get a seat in the front stalls for as little as 6 pence! We know this from some fantastic finds in the Broadway’s managers office including multiple newspaper advertisements from different eras showing admission prices and daily return sheets showing profit, patron numbers and seating choices for individual screenings.

The Broadway Cinema Advertisement.
The Broadway Cinema Advertisement.

Of course, as is the case with any cinema, from the past or present, often the running of such a business comes with its difficulties and unfortunate events. Back in December 2005, Gordon Barr and Gary Painter for their website Scottish Cinemas visited the Broadway on a site tour and discovered that truly incredible collection of letters, documents and cinema memorabilia afore mentioned, and was able to donate everything found to the National Library of Scotland's Moving Image Archive at Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. It is a remarkably rare collection that paints a very vivid picture of how the Broadway operated at this time, with a wonderful variety of topics, including war-time ice cream shortages, break-ins, curtain cleaning, equipment replacements and even patrons tearing their clothes on seats! 

Hollywood film star Vivian Blaine.
Letter from the Seamore Cinema in Glasgow confirming Viviane Blaine's visit to the Broadway.
Sir Harry Lauder 2.jpg

Most of the letters and documents were written and signed by the managing director of the Broadway at the time, Sir Alexander B. King. A giant of the cinema industry in Scotland, Sir Alexander managed several different cinemas between the 30s and 60s, and was knighted in 1944 for his charity work during World War II, in bringing moving cinema to displaced children in the rural communities of war-time Scotland. His correspondance was mostly between himself and the long-time manager of the Broadway, James C. Ross, as well as other directors and secretaries including former chairman J.C. Sword, James McClure, T.W. Richardson and William Gardner.

Original ticket prices banner found in the Broadway.
The official tagline for the Broadway used during the golden age of cinema.
The Broadway Cinema Auditorium in 1935.

The Broadway not only showed film too, it’s position at the heart of Prestwick’s community was only strengthened by its usage for local events. Many residents today still remember attending the Broadway’s auditiorium for school prize-giving shows, local music performances and other community events. Every Saturday morning in the Broadway and the other cinemas in the area, it was Children’s Day! Children could gain entry at a reduced cost to see any number of different films being shown, Westerns were again a favourite here with the children often cheering the goodies and booing the baddies! One annual event in Prestwick that has since long ended was Prestwick Week, when a number of venues in town would offer free or reduced entry for residents of the town, the Broadway used to offer one free ticket for the children of Prestwick’s schools!

The Broadway thrived during its early years, and was an integral part of the Prestwick community. Please do have a read of some of the letters shown here and take a step back in time to the Broadway Cinema of old. If you would like to view more of the documents saved by Gordon Barr and Gary Painter you can view a larger part of the collection on their website Scottish Cinemas by clicking here. Huge thanks go out to Gordon and Gary again for their work in preserving the Broadway's past. Thankfully the echoes of glitz and glamour of the golden age of cinema still live on in the Broadway of today.

Letter from the El Dorado Ice Cream Company in 1948.
Letter from William Gardner to J.W. Ross in 1947.
Letterhead from Columbia Pictures.
Letter from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Pictures.
Letter from 20th Century Fox Film Company.



Application for Membership to The Broadway Bingo and Social Club.

Sadly, the glory days of the 30s to 50s were not to last for Scotland’s cinemas, including the Broadway. The rise of television meant that people no longer needed to leave their homes and visit the cinema to enjoy the magic of film. For many, of course, the cinema remained a very special experience and worth the visit as it still does today, however, the special status cinema held as the prime form of entertainment was to start fading away at the beginning of the 1960s.

Montly programme for the Broadway Cinema in March 1964.

The Broadway, in particular, chose the same path at this time as did so many other cinemas in the area, and start a slow transition to bingo. As demand for cinema was decreasing, the demand for bingo halls was very much still strong, and the large auditorium of the Broadway was perfectly suited to play host to this role. In fact, the auditorium at this time would be re-painted for the first and only time in its history, to the vivid lilac that still remains to this day! One document found in the building and saved for the archives was a programme from March 1964, and sadly alongside the classic films of Rio Bravo and From Russia With Love we can see already that several days a week were solely dedicated to bingo, a trend that would only continue in the coming years. This document, and a membership application for the Broadway Bingo and Social Club, can be seen in this exhibit and perfectly symbolise the slow demise that the Broadway and other cinemas suffered from at the hands of bingo, once cinema demand was falling away.

The movie poster for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the last film to show in the Broadway on the 20th of November 1976.

After several years with bingo and cinema sharing the schedule, the Broadway was full-time bingo by 1966, with what appeared to be the end of films being shown in the building. However, there was yet to be a revival! The Broadway wasn’t yet done with the big screen and in the mid 1970s, after many other cinemas in the area had already ceased to exist, the Broadway gave cinema one last go by bringing back screenings. The revival was pioneered by Mr John Sword, the grandson of the first chairman of the Broadway, Mr J.C. Sword! This lasted for 10 months, but sadly despite the Sword family’s best efforts, in the long run the cinema just couldn’t remain profitable. The Broadway showed its last film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, on the 20th of November 1976.

That is, the last film for now.



With the end of cinema, the Broadway’s future was destined to take a different path. By 1981, the building had been sold and had since reopened as the newly named Broadway Leisure Centre, subsequently renamed Prestwick Leisure Centre.

The building was bought by a Mr. Sheeran and family, and their takeover resulted in significant changes to the Broadway’s appearance both inside and out. Sadly, at this time the façade of the building was greatly simplified, with an outer concrete render added to the majority of the frontage, covering the original red brick and recessed stone, and also the upper level windows. The ground level of the building was completely redeveloped, the front foyer was transformed into an amusement arcade, false wall and ceiling panelling were erected (including covering the lightwell to the balcony above), new flooring replaced the original carpet and the main staircase to the balcony foyer above was blocked off. The rear stalls were also walled off from the rest of the auditorium, as this area was repurposed into a pool room, to act as an extension of the amusement arcade at the front. Thankfully, some original features remained, including most notably the central island paybox, at this time repurposed into a change booth for the arcade games!

The Broadway Cinema as Broadway Leisure Centre in the 1990s.
download (1)_edited.jpg

The second half of the new Leisure Centre was to be created at the rear of the building in the former auditorium. Most destructively of all unfortunately, this meant that all seating needed to be removed and the original proscenium, stage, and front circle was cut into and destroyed to make way for the new changes. There were three championship standard squash courts built to cater to all skill levels of the sport, as well as a luxury gymnasium, all under new suspended false ceilings, hiding the upper levels of the auditorium from view. The centre also featured luxury shower rooms and a carpeted lounge area to the side of the squash courts. Later added to the amusement arcade at the front was a new internet café, introduced once the internet became usable and accessible at the turn of the century. Thankfully, with the upper levels of the building falling out of public use at this time, that meant that cinema era items could survive untouched, specifically in the projection room!

The Broadway would remain as the Leisure Centre until being sold to Buzzworks Group in 2003.



When Buzzworks purchased the building in 2003, they had plans to redevelop the Broadway again as a boutique hotel, however these plans never came to fruition. Therefore, for the last 20 years the Broadway has stood silent. Until now, with the introduction of Friends of the Broadway Prestwick. Our group was founded in 2012 by local couple and lifetime friends of the project Colin and Leica Malkin, with the aim of purchasing the building and reopening the Broadway Cinema once again.

It has been a long journey since then! The project has seen multiple different iterations take shape over time. From a town charrette in 2016, to a first feasibility study published in 2017, to then an expanded board of directors in 2018 and the introduction of pop-up cinema and Prestwick Film Festival in 2019. The early years of the project's history saw multiple stumbling blocks reached and hurdles to overcome. Nevertheless, the passion for the Broadway and the energy and support from the community meant that Friends of the Broadway Prestwick continued on, until in 2020 the global pandemic caused the project to inevitably stall, as all of the Broadway's potential funding streams were redistributed to COVID relief efforts.

Broadway Cinema (Today).jpg

This period in time also saw several directors and trustees step down from the board for personal reasons. This, combined with updated feedback from community members and new expert advice on the project's original feasibility study, prompted a new era of change, and a relaunch of the project and our goals.


We took the project back to the brickwork and re-evaluated the direction in which our community wished us to travel, what we could preserve from the Broadway in its current condition, and what change was needed to make that progress a reality.

First, we needed to establish a critical piece of information, and we got the news we were hoping for. Contrary to previous advice, we confirmed that the Broadway's original auditorium structure 
could be saved! This set the ball rolling for an all-new project outlook with heritage preservation at the forefront of everything we hope to accomplish. With Buzzworks' support, we got keys to the building and were able to document just how incredible a survivor the Broadway is, and the wonderful original features and atmosphere that you can still see and feel to this day. We were then able to implement temporary measures to slow the rate of deterioration in the building, and safeguard the future of the interior until the time comes that we are ready to begin the restoration process.

Secondly, we needed a new board. A new super-team of volunteers with a wide variety of experience in key areas yet with a unified vision for the future of the Broadway. We believe we have achieved that! You can now read our new Meet the Team section by clicking here and getting to know the people behind the project.

It was then time to shift into top gear and start laying the foundations for future success, with some major announcements made in the first half of 2023! In April we signed an official licence agreement with Buzzworks, becoming legal occupants of the Broadway Cinema for the first time! This represented a huge leap forward for the project, enabling us to step up our initial preservation work in the building and begin preparing for a major funding application now that the project met the necessary criteria.

Soon after in May, the second major announcement followed, in funding received from the Coastal Communities Fund for a new architectural firm to develop an all-new feasibility study and vision for the Broadway, based on the principles established in the project's relaunch. We were then delighted to officially partner with the nation's leading architects in heritage cinema and theatre restoration,
Burrell Foley Fischer. Our lead architect is Faye Davies, supported by Callum Rae and Haodong Wu, and we are already hard at work together developing our initial concepts for how the Broadway Cinema of the future could look!


The heritage aspect of our project is crucial and ever expanding and evolving. In the restoration of the Broadway we will capture the soul of the Art Deco golden age cinema experience, breathing life back into the precious cinema-going memories of our past generations. We aim to preserve not only the Broadway's history but the history of all cinemas across the country, in our nation's first ever Museum of Scottish Cinemas. Cinema has played such a massive role in the cultural and built heritage of our country's towns and cities, with Scotland once having the highest rate of cinema attendance per capita in Europe! Memories of intermission and usherettes, ice cream and high tea, and the art of showmanship from projectionists of the past will all be immortalised within the Broadway's walls, to pass those memories on to our future generations. We have brought onto the project Mandie Thrippleton, as an Executive Advisor of Museum Curation. Mandie has experience as lead curator for multiple museums across the country and her expertise and vision will ensure that the Museum of Scottish Cinemas is developed to the highest standard of nationwide accreditation. We will also be partnering with The Projected Picture Trust to develop many of the museum exhibits. The PPT exist to preserve the art of projection, saving and restoring original projectors and passing on the knowledge of projectionists of the past to ensure the skills required to operate the machines will live on for many generations to come.

The Broadway will become a very special place to watch all types of film. We were delighted to discover that our original Gaumont-Kalee Type 20 projectors are fully restorable to working condition! This coupled with equipment received as heritage donations and our ongoing partnership with the Projected Picture Trust will ensure that the Broadway will open in a highly exclusive group of cinemas fully equipped for 35mm film shows, with aspirations to even include 70mm capability. These plans are incredibly exciting, as the world's cinema landscape is beginning to evolve to once again place a higher emphasis on the importance of analog film. Combining this capability with state-of-the-art digital projection, we will be able to carve a niche as one of the nation's premier film-viewing destinations. You can view our rapidly expanding heritage collection here and see some of the projectors that the Broadway can help bring back to life!

Another important aspect of the Broadway's future is in the preservation of Scottish Gaelic. We plan to develop a voluntary Gaelic Language Plan, with the aim of becoming a leading Gaelic hub for Ayrshire, playing a significant role in the preservation of the language in Southern Scotland. We can create a venue for Gaelic language groups to interact and host events, with multiple collaborations and partnerships with leading Gaelic organisations on the horizon. You can view our entire website in Gaelic by clicking


The latest major leap forward for the project has been the creation of The Broadway Pop-up Cinema Roadshow, and partnership with Indy Cinema Group. With Indy supporting our programming, we have been able to bring the latest blockbuster releases back to Prestwick for the first time since the Broadway showed One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for the last time 47 years ago!

We have settled at an excellent temporary venue, Prestwick Academy! With a 300+ seated auditorium, fully accessible foyer, and full stage and lighting facilities, we are able to create a wonderfully authentic cinema environment at our home away from home. Opening with the iconic Back to the Future trilogy, we have since brought Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Barbie, and Oppenheimer to Prestwick, in a major milestone for the project! Our plans for the Roadshow are massive, as we aim to maintain a regular schedule of new releases supported by a wide variety of vintage screenings, film festivals, and unique special events!

Click here to the latest
programmes and book tickets now for all Roadshow events! We look forward to welcoming you.

Roadshow Logo (Black).png

It is an incredibly exciting time to follow the project and we would love for you to join us! You can become a member of the Broadway for just £10 a year and gain access to a wide range of exclusive benefits including discounted Roadshow tickets, a subscription to our monthly newsletter The Broadway Bugle, online members-only bonus exhibits, and more! Full membership is available to all within the KA9 postcode area, with Associate Membership available to everyone else nationwide. We can't wait to continue our journey with you and look forward to welcoming you through the Broadway's doors for the first time upon grand re-opening in the future.

Thank you for your support!

Sign up to become an official member of Friends of the Broadway Prestwick!
Help support our project and gain access to exclusive benefits including:

  • Voting rights at our AGM

bottom of page