Jonathan Melville: Chance to see city’s cinematic history

CONTAINING millions of items on 250 miles of shelving, it’s fair to say the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge is big. Really big.

Normally there’s no chance to browse any of the thousands of objects in their collection of film-related memorabilia, thousands of cinema posters, magazines, programmes, manuscripts and books, stored randomly in dozens of boxes across 15 floors. Until now.

Going to the Pictures: Scotland at the cinema is an exhibition exploring the story of Scotland’s love affair with the movies over the past 120 years, comprised mainly of print material and archive footage sourced from the ever-growing archives of the NLS and the Scottish Screen Archive.

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Taking visitors from the silent era right up to the release of Disney-Pixar’s Brave, the exhibition contains an Aladdin’s Cave of rarely seen objects that show us how Edinburgh’s cinema scene used to look.

Among the treasures, I spotted a programme from the first night of films shown at the Empire Palace Theatre (now the Festival Theatre) in 1895, the first Scottish cinema magazine from 1919 and footage of Edinburgh’s first talkie cinema, the Ritz on Rodney Street, from 1929.

Clips from silent movies sit alongside those from more recent Scottish-set films, while a small replica cinema has been created in front of a screen showing old Pearl and Dean adverts that recall days long gone.

Take yourself, friends and any children you can find along to an exhibition that’s unlikely to be repeated for many years to come, a unique opportunity to see our cinematic history up close before it heads back into the vaults.

The exhibition runs until 28 October and is open seven days a week.