Mamma Mia, here we go again – rebirth of first cinema (with a little help from Abba)

IT WAS Scotland's first purpose-built cinema, and it has now been restored to its former glory at a cost of more than £2 million.

So when the choice came of what film to show after a wait of more than 30 years there were some serious contenders.

Classics such as Some Like It Hot, Casablanca, Singin' in the Rain, ET and Raiders of the Lost Ark were considered – but they were all rejected in favour of Mamma Mia!.

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The exploits of Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep camping it up to the hits of Abba was the film of choice at the opening screening at the newly restored Hippodrome in Bo'ness.

Organisers of last night's screening have insisted the film is perfectly fitting – as Abba first stormed into the charts with Mamma Mia in 1975 – the year the last film to be screened at the Hippodrome was shown.

The cinema building, designed by the local architect Matthew Steele, was a notorious eyesore in Bo'ness for years until it was rescued by Falkirk Council after years of demands for action by heritage campaigners.

Opened in 1912 by an enigmatic showman who helped lure in audiences by screening short films shot locally, it was the nation's first purpose-built cinema.

Louis Dickson's brainchild was regularly packed out by the people of Bo'ness in the hope of seeing themselves on the big screen attending events such as Bo'ness Miners Gala, and its successor, Bo'ness Children's Fair.

His archive footage has been dusted down by cinema historians and will be screened at a special event in the cinema's first programme next month.

But before then, they will have had the chance to lap up Mamma Mia!, which helped British cinemas to break a 40-year box-office record and later became the UK's biggest-selling DVD ever.

Local film fans were given the chance to win tickets for the big event by choosing the film for last night's gala, which was being staged ahead of the cinema's public opening on Thursday.

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The last film to be shown in August, 1975, before the Hippodrome became a bingo hall for five years, was action adventure The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

A spokesman for the Hippodrome said Mamma Mia! and animated movie Wall-E were chosen along with several classic films to give people a wide choice of movies to select from.

Councillor Adrian Mahoney, culture and tourism leader on Falkirk Council, said: "The Hippodrome showed its last film in August 1975. It was the same year when Abba hit the charts with a song called Mamma Mia.

"It's great that the public have picked the film of the same name – featuring songs from the Seventies – to help us reopen the building. It's a fantastic feel-good film for a great community celebration. This fantastic restoration project has breathed new life into Scotland's first purpose-built cinema."

Val McKay, a local writer and historian in Bo'ness, said: "I suppose Mamma Mia! is very much in keeping with the vogue for all things Abba at the moment."

The cinema has retained a host of features from a 1926 makeover which have now been painstakingly restored. However, visitors will notice slightly more legroom – 178 seats have been installed, compared with the 700 seats the cinema used to boast.

The 2.15 million revamp of the Hippodrome was given the green light almost three years after winning the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland. Other contributors, include the local authority, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Falkirk Environment Trust.

The opening season at the Hippodrome will also feature new hits The Reader, Duplicity, The Boat That Rocked, and The Young Victoria.

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