Theatres in Ayrshire ~ 1800 - 2014

The Kings Theatre, Kilmarnock

The Kings Theatre, built in Titchfield Street during the reign of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, opened on the 1st October 1904 under management of R C Buchanan & Ernest Stephens. Over a four year period, the owners staged  a variety of entertainment, including opera, variety shows, to musical extravaganzas.  In 1908, Buchanan and Stephens went out of business and the management was taken over by John Cummings.

The building, designed by Alexander Cullen of Hamilton, was a three-storey, symmetrical seven-bay structure in the Edwardian Baroque style.  The facade was polished, red Ballochmyle sandstone ashlar.  The side and rear structures were red brick, harled in places.  Although substantially altered, the building retains much of its fine Edwardian Baroque frontage to Titchfield Street.

In the early years of the century, the programme was primarily 'live theatre' although there were some experimental trials showing 'moving pictures'.  However, the management was unsure whether these would prove popular in the long run.

In 1916 Ownership returned to R C Buchanan, who continued until 1929 when ABC (Associated British Cinemas) added the theatre to their expanding circuit.

In 1926 there were substantial changes to the interior of the theatre to designs by the Airdrie architect, Charles McNair.  The most notable change was the construction of the balcony. At this time, the theatre contained bars, exclusive boxes and lounges. It could hold around 2000 patrons for a show.   The building continued as a live theatre until 1934 then closed with a final performance by the late Sir Harry Lauder.

In the same year, the interior converted to a cinema with typical art deco proscenium and auditorium designed by Charles J McNair.  There were further internal alterations in 1975 after fire damage.

At various times after the conversion in 1934, the building was named the Regal, ABC, Cannon and again (finally) the ABC.  With the opening of the new Odeon multi-screen cinema in Kilmarnock the Kings fell into disuse.  Although there have been proposals to convert the building to retail and restaurant use, with a smaller cinema on the second floor, redevelopment has been deferred. 

In June 2007, East Ayrshire Council served an enforcement notice on the owners requiring maintenance to be carried out to the building, including removal of advertising canopy, repair of guttering and replacement glass to be put in windows.


Building Details

Built as theatre in 1904.  Altered 1926 and converted to cinema in 1934.  The 1930s interior was destroyed by fire in 1975. The cinema closed in 1999 following the opening of an Odeon multiplex nearby.


Built 1904
Dates of use: 1904 - 1916
Current state: Extant 
Current use: dark (Cinema (closed))
Other names: King’s Theatre, Regal, ABC, Cannon, ABC
Listing:  Grade B - 1.8.2002


Original: 2,200

1904 Design/Construction: Alexander Cullen - Architect
1926 Alteration: balcony constructed: Charles McNair - Architect
1934 Alteration: rebuilt internally as cinema: + Charles J McNair - Architect
1975 Alteration: reconstructed internally after fire: Unknown - Architect


1904 Owner/Management: R C Buchanan & Ernest Stephens
1908 Owner/Management: John Cummings
1916 Owner/Management: R C Buchanan
1929 Owner/Management: ABC


No information

Building information from The Theatres Trust and Historic Scotland


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1.   Kilmarnock Kings Theatre, 1904.  The poster advertises Ben Greet's company in 'Belle of New York.'  magnify

2.   Kilmarnock Kings Theatre in Titchfield Street.   magnify   ©M.Bailey

3.   Kilmarnock Kings Theatre in Titchfield Street.  magnify   ©M.Bailey  

4.   Rear view of theatre building  magnify  ©M.Bailey 

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