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Letters from the Manager's Office: The Future of the Broadway Cinema

Updated: 4 days ago

Now we have purchased the Broadway for the community we can finally start briefing you all more fully on the emerging plans for the building. We think you are going to love them!

It goes without saying that having the community on-board is essential for a project like this. Over the past 18 months we have been putting the question out to you on what you want from the Broadway via open days, design workshops, focus groups, questionnaires, and just chatting to you in the foyer. Do you remember the students from Heriot Watt? They also ran two big design workshops for us last year. Out of all this you told us very clearly what you want the Broadway to be like… and we loved your ideas. They directly informed the brief to leading heritage cinema architects Burrell Foley Fischer, who then developed some early concepts.

You spoke… we listened! You told us you wanted cinema, live performances, and music. You wanted the Broadway to be for all ages, social, affordable, and atmospheric. You wanted the ‘soul of the Broadway’ preserved and for it to feel nostalgic, historic, vintage, and welcoming. You wanted it to be original and Art Deco.

Let’s take a look through some early ideas for how all of this can be achieved: and I emphasise early ideas! We are in the early stages of planning; we still have to fundraise; and as we complete more work on the building, we will undoubtedly learn more about its fabric. I say this to highlight that everything noted below is what we're aiming for - they're ideas. But please be assured that this is an ongoing conversation with all of you as members and the wider community of Prestwick. You'll be with us, every step of the way.

Accessible for all.

Check this out. This is the Rolls Royce option. What we have here is our beautiful Art Deco foyer extended somewhat into the original auditorium underneath the balcony (a bit like the new Everyman, ex ABC cinema in Salisbury) to create a large area for people to enjoy the building, meet friends, hybrid work, and generally soak up the ambience of a bustling cinema. Soda fountain anyone? One of the biggest challenges are the three steps down to the lower foyer, so we'd like to re-design the entire ground floor of the building to ensure step free access to all areas of the ground floor, from Main Street all the way to the front of the stage. We would also like to have a changing places toilet, making Prestwick the only thoroughfare in the county with such a facility and opening up access to all.


The auditorium stays.

Our beautiful Art Deco auditorium is staying! The Heriot-Watt students performed an in-depth visual inspection and measurement survey of the Broadway’s steel frame… at least those bits that could be safely accessed. This work was subsequently confirmed by engineering professionals, but the good news is that the building is not just structurally sound, it is over engineered! Even with maximum loading from a capacity audience and a gale force Ayrshire wind blowing on the roof, the steel members are barely doing any work at all. 

The original auditorium had 1,060 rather narrow seats to accommodate 1935-sized bottoms. A key part of the business model going forward is to make the Broadway really luxurious, comfortable, and spacious. We have taken the ‘living room for the town’ feedback very seriously! So, the auditorium will be re-spaced and re-stepped (a bit like the Odeon Leicester Square), and the seating capacity reduced to around 300 or 400. 

Large auditoriums are fantastic for cinematic ambience and a unique audience experience, and when a big hit comes along, they are even better economically! But they also need to be flexible.  The Broadway has a stage and dressing rooms, and several of the venues we have benchmarked ourselves against have bemoaned the fact they don’t have this flexibility. We’re going to use it to the full! The stalls floor will also be flat so we could have cabaret style seating (like the Rex in Berkhamsted), a dance floor, and lots of flexibility in how things can be laid out. 

Sociable screenings and tea dances anyone?

Additional screens.

The south fire escape is currently an open-air passage with weeds growing in it, but in the final scheme an idea that has come forward is to enclose it, possibly with a glass roof, and further extend the usable social space as well as providing level access to one or two smaller screens to be built in the rear car park. More than one screen is essential to maintain flexibility given that distributors require cinemas to show films for set numbers of days and showings.  It means as audiences tail off towards the end of a film run, it can be moved to a smaller screen and the main auditorium freed up.

Destination joy

Upstairs we have our circle foyer and grand balcony.  And not just a cheap ramp of seating, our balcony is fan shaped with a complex geometry and fantastic sight lines.  It will be fully accessible via a lift to be located where the old gents loos currently are, and the focus here will be on comfort and space and luxury for all. Sofa seating anyone? 


Finally, at the front of the building we have a fantastic light and airy space in the former café for our Museum of Scottish Cinemas: the Broadway will be a ‘destination’ and one that we hope will evoke powerful feelings of nostalgia and joy. It is going to be amazing, and we want all our members to come with us on this design journey.

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