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The Broadway Theatre, 7 Arthurstone Terrace, Dundee

Formerly - The Theatre Royal / The Picture House / Royal Picture House / Empress Playhouse / The Broadway Cinema

Dundee Theatres

The Broadway Theatre in Dundee's Arthurstone Terrace opened around 1931. It replaced the earlier tin-roofed Picture House on the site, initiated and operated by Joseph Bell, which he began as the cine-variety Theatre Royal in June 1914. This was later advertising as the Picture House, and was remodelled in 1918, marketing itself as the Royal Picture House by the mid-1920s. It changed title again in 1928 to the Empress Playhouse which staged melodrama, revues and pantomime until around 1930.

The Broadway Cinema which then replaced the Empress Playhouse was originally designed as a new cinema for J. Bell by William Friskin of the architectural firm of Allen & Friskin, it can be seen on the Scottish Cinema site here, as can its interior enlarged in early 1939 when it would revert to being a full time cinema under its new ownership of J. B. Milne, part of his ever-increasing Milne Cinema Circuit, (more on this below).

A Newspaper advertisement in March 1937 for the Broadway Theatre Dundee starring Dave Willis - Courtesy Graeme Smith.However, at the end of 1932 the Broadway Cinema changed to live theatre, seating 1,023, substantially more than the Victoria which was the city's other variety theatre. Under manager George W. White – who had married Mrs Agnes Shand, widowed owner of cinemas and other venues in Dundee and Broughty Ferry - it built up its business in variety, revues, musical comedy, pantomime and jazz orchestras, including Jack Hylton's and Jack Payne's whose leading saxophonist was Mrs Shand's son.  Top liners appearing included Ella Retford, Harry Gordon, Florrie Forde, Tommy Morgan, George West and Dave Willis.

Above Right - A Newspaper advertisement in March 1937 for the Broadway Theatre Dundee starring Dave Willis - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

A Newspaper advertisement in January 1939 for the Broadway Theatre Dundee featuring a Pantomime produced by Jimmy Currie - Courtesy Graeme Smith.In 1937 White advertised the Theatre for sale as a going concern, selling it to Stanley Clive Gibbs, related through the Shands. Gibbs had operated it from 1936, after White. It was around this time that James Currie entered upon a long lease of the Broadway which he did during 1938, and with an option to buy it. His revue and pantomime companies travelled the country, including Dundee's Broadway, from his base in Perth where he had opened the Alhambra Theatre in the 1920s, and continued to own the summer Pavilion on the South Inch. Prior to his entertainment projects he had been appointed in 1916 as manager of the Palace Theatre, Dundee when it changed to vaudeville.

Left - A Newspaper advertisement in January 1939 for the Broadway Theatre Dundee featuring a Pantomime produced by Jimmy Currie - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

In the Broadway Theatre he presented variety, pantomimes and revues - including his Empire Exhibition Revue based on the highly successful art-deco Empire Exhibition of 1938 in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park where water features, spectacular jet fountains and hill cascades moved in patterns and shapes, all illuminated in the evenings with changing, coloured lighting - but very soon discovered that the Broadway property ownership had changed, on the 31st of December 1938, and a Milne Cinema would start in February 1939.

A Photograph of Jimmy Currie, water effects supremo - Courtesy Graeme Smith.Currie, in his own words, in an interview published in The Tatler, found himself out on his uppers. After enduring WW2 he emerged in 1946 from his new address in Glasgow with a new product, perfected and promising. This was the start of the Jimmy Currie Water Scenes and Spectaculars - most likely based upon an innovation in his Perth Pavilion Theatre in his July 1941 summertime show Scotland for Ever which featured torrential waterfalls, transformed from a river through the glens, as its Highland climatic finale.

Right - A Photograph of Jimmy Currie, water effects supremo - Courtesy Graeme Smith.

He soon won contracts for stages on both sides of the border including Moss Empires Ltd and Howard & Wyndham Ltd and the Currie Water Effects, and accompanying actors, instrumentalists and dancers, stole the show in the Royal Command Performance of 1947 in London's Palladium Theatre. The Edinburgh International Festival of 1954 included Jimmy Currie's own Water Festival which ran for three weeks in the Gaiety Theatre, Leith; the advertising poster and further details of the Water Festival can be seen here. By 1960 he had modern workshops in Lancashire and stores in Glasgow and Morecambe.

Jimmy Currie was no longer on his uppers! Over some three decades his water effects and aquatic shows featured in the top Theatres, Cabarets and Casinos in Britain, France, South Africa, the Middle East and the USA – and also water effects for the World's Fair in New York's Flushing Meadow 1964/65.

The Broadway Theatre reverted to being a full time Cinema in 1939 when it was bought by the J. B. Milne Theatres Chain. It closed in 1963 and was converted for Bingo use which eventually closed too. The Theatre then remained closed and derelict until it was finally demolished in 1991.

Some images of the Broadway as a Cinema can be seen on the Scottish Cinema site here.

The above article on the Broadway Theatre, Dundee was written for this site by Graeme Smith in September 2017.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

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