Britannia Panopticon
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The General at the Panopticon

Britannia Panopticon

The Panopticon was showing films right from 25th August 1896. As cinema became more popular than music hall, A. E. Pickard, the owner from 1906, sold the building in May 1919 to the newly formed company “Britannia Pictures”. In December of that year it is being referred to as the Panopticon Theatre with lectures, and a new pianist, J. F. Macarthur, is announced. On 18th April 1920, another lecture “The Children's Red Day” is advertised at the Panopticon Theatre, The Glasgow Post Office Directory of 1920-1921 gives the building's name as Britannia Pictures Ltd. The Bioscope of 17th August 1921 reports that the Panopticon was at that time undergoing “extensive alterations”.

The Bioscope of Thursday 22nd September 1921 refers to Harry Boyle as "the new manager of the Tron Cinema". The most popular films shown there seem to have been the boxing films. There are adverts in the Daily Record for "Bob Beckett vs Boy McCormick" 19th September 1921, "Johnny Basham vs Kid Lewis" 17th October 1921 and "Kid Lewis vs Boy McCormick" 28th November 1921 . The film of the Beckett/McCormick match is called by the Pall Mall Gazette of 17th September 1921 “without doubt the best fighting film we have seen”.

The film of the Lewis/McCormick fight is available on Youtube - 17th November 1921 at the Royal Albert Hall. In June 1922 it was damaged by fire; evidence of this can still be seen at the side of the stage. In March 1923 a new manager took over; Johnny Hamilton. In September 1924 Britannia Pictures went into liquidation, but that month Kinematograph Weekly speaks about “the opening date” of the Panopticon. This may mean that it ceased to be called the Tron Cinema, and reverted to the name Panopticon; there do not seem to be any more references to the Tron Cinema after September 1924, other than the Glasgow Post Office Directory of 1926/27 . A ledger from 1924 currently on display in the auditorium gives the attendance at another boxing film " Tommy Milligan vs Kid Lewis" 26th November 1924. There seem to have been two houses on Friday 28th November (attendance – 1931), and Saturday 29th November (attendance 3419) . The attendance figures are far higher than in the rest of the ledger. Other films mentioned in the ledger are “Skid Proof” (Saturday18th October – attendance 1222) and “The Gunfighter” (Monday 13th October – attendance 956) In February 1925 Britannia Pictures (in voluntary liquidation) paid the Final Dividend to shareholders

At 2 pm on 27th March we will be showing Buster Keaton's classic 1926 film "The General". It is an epic of silent comedy, one of the most expensive films of its time, featuring a historical recreation of a Civil War episode, hundreds of extras, dangerous stunt sequences, and an actual locomotive falling from a burning bridge into a gorge far below. It was inspired by a real event; the screenplay was loosely based on the book "The Great Locomotive Chase,” written by William Pittenger, the engineer who was involved. The music we will be using is based on a "cue sheet" of 1926. These sheets were sent out by the film companies and comprise a list of suitable pieces of music and indications of where in the film they should be played. We have managed to source about two thirds of the music recommended and have subsituted similar music where necessary as would have been done when the film was originally shown. We will be using an ensemble consisting of trumpet and string quartet. Sadly there is no evidence that The General was ever shown at the Tron Cinema.