Demolition only option for Kirkcaldy's crumbling cinema building

​A cinema which has sat empty for more than 20 years in Kirkcaldy town centre is now in such a perilous state it will have to be demolished.

​Gaping holes have appeared on the side of the roof, and the building is now in such a poor state that no-one is allowed inside.

Trustees and directors who run the Esplanade venue - which has carved out a niche as as great live venue as well as a community cinema - admit the former three-screen ABC, which dates back to 1904, is beyond economic repair.

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It would take millions of pounds to restore the historic venue which closed in 2000, and was largely forgotten about until the Kirkcaldy Kings Theatre Trust started an ambitious project to bring it back to life in 2016.

How the former ABC Cinema looks today - and in need of millions of £s to renovate it.How the former ABC Cinema looks today - and in need of millions of £s to renovate it.
How the former ABC Cinema looks today - and in need of millions of £s to renovate it.

Despite efforts to make it wind and watertight, the interior is in such a fragile state the only realistic option is to bring it down and open the site up to new development opportunities.

Trustees say the cinema’s condition is a “cause for concern” and they are in talks with Fife Council to come to a final decision over its future.

“I cannot allow anyone inside it now,” said George Proudfoot, a trustee and director. It is as bad as that. I cannot guarantee their safety. It is in a shocking internal state - it is a giant pigeon coup. It is worse now than it was before, and it will keep deteriorating.”

That decline is evident with huge gaping holes on the side of the roof. While a canopy was put over the “decrepit” roof to protect it, it didn’t include this part of the building. The hope is that the shock of seeing the decline will spark fresh impetus to reach a final decision on what to do with the building.

The gaping holes in the roof (Pic: Cath Ruane)The gaping holes in the roof (Pic: Cath Ruane)
The gaping holes in the roof (Pic: Cath Ruane)

The original vision was to turn it into a 2000-seat venue, and with the financial backing of former Raith Rovers’ chairman John Sim, work started on clearing up two decades of neglect and damage. While the former YWCA was brought back to life as the Kings, the cinema appears to have reached the end of it is life. The hope is to find a buyer to knock it down while keeping the listed foyer, which still has its stained glass window – it could could be the entrance to any new development.

Trustees also want to progress with bringing down the former ballroom which butts on to the back of the cinema behind the Kings.

It too is beyond saving, but demolition costs for that alone are put at £40,000. The trust already has planning permission to tear down the former ballroom.

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“The ballroom has to come down - and once it goes that would give any demolition team access to the internal site and start to bring down the cinema for demolition and redevelopment,” said trustee and director, George Proudfoot.

The damage to the roof is evident in this view (Pic: Cath Ruane)The damage to the roof is evident in this view (Pic: Cath Ruane)
The damage to the roof is evident in this view (Pic: Cath Ruane)

“It is challenging but something will have to be done. It has to be tackled.

“You could compare it to the old Co-op site which sat empty for about 30 years. Now we have flats and partial retail and it looks good. Where there is a will, there’s a way.”

The trustees’ focus is now firmly on the Kings, and under-pinning its place as a go-to venue for live music and entertainment as well as being a hub for the creative arts.

It has made huge strides since re-opening after lockdown, but there is still work to be done to get people through the doors.

Its panto was a massive hit with audiences and brought many people into the building for the very first time, while the refurbished rooms upstairs are starting to be filled by artists.

There are plans to add a restaurant, and make use of the plaza outside this summer. The aim is to make it a viable operation open to visitors and audiences day and night – and it also wants to raise the profile of its regular film screenings after investing in a community cinema.

“The Kings and 9 Esplanade has so much going for it. We want it to be a vibrant evening economy venue along with all the other excellent places in the town. We know some people don’t know what is son, so we are not reaching the whole market - we’re working on that.

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“We have new signage at the front door, and we hope when we start catering on the plaza that people will be able to see what is happening externally and that will bring them through the door.

“And If there is a busy thoroughfare in the town centre then it is the waterfront. The number of people walking along the Prom is huge.”

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