We are very grateful to local entertainment historia Brian Nobile for compiling this history of the venue
Can I say how delighted I am at being asked to do a short history of The Alhambra.
As an entertainment historian for the Dunfermline area and born in 1951 I was
taken to many of the great Scottish shows held in the popular venue in the early
and mid 1960's by my mother and even once met the Alexander Bros. It was
amazing the audiences these kind of shows could pull in but the problem was that
the overheads were so high that and you needed a huge crowd to break even.
The story of The Alhambra starts in 1920 when planning permission was submitted
to build a theatre at the corner of Canmore Street and The New Row in
Dunfermline. All went well with the application and work was started fairly
quickly. Nobody is really sure what went wrong but by the time the theatre was
ready for opening the owners had run out of money. It was touch and go whether
or not the theatre would actually open as the companies weren't to happy about
not being paid for creating a state of the art entertainment venue. If you've been
to The Alhambra you can imagine the detailed work that was carried out when
building. A meeting was held with the bank and the companies involved and it was
pointed out that if the theatre didn't open the owners would be bankrupt and
nobody would get anything. They found a way round the problem by offering the
companies involved shares in the Alhambra which obviously didn't suit all but it
was better than nothing.
The Alhambra finally opened it's doors to the public in August 1922 with a film
called 'Over The Hill'. It was disappointing to many at the time that a beautiful
theatre should offer films and not 'live' entertainment but the owners promised
patrons that the best of the touring companies would be brought to the Alhambra,
this they tried to do but for some reason it wasn't working. It was agreed to seek
a new owner that would come in and turn the theatre's fortunes around. In 1923
a Managing Director was found and it came in the form of The Alhambra's biggest
rival. The owner of The Dunfermline Opera House was London born actor, touring
company and now theatre owner John Henry Hare who had settled in the town
after taking ownership of the Opera House in 1912. Since John Henry Hare took
over The Opera House he had brought to the town some of London's best west
end productions and the standard of entertainers he brought proved he obviously
had his finger on the pulse of what was happening in the world of entertainment.
The question was could he do the same for The Alhambra?
In researching for this article and going through the local papers of the time he brought to the Alhambra a great wealth of top performers and touring company's. The D'Oyly Carte company was the bench mark of the standard of entertainment that graced the stage of the Alhambra at the time but as in other cities and towns in Britain entertainment tastes were changing. With the improved quality of films being made and the popularity of Charlie Chaplin ect. it was cinema that was packing them in and
theatres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Perth were having to
adjust to the clamber for better quality venues for the Cinema boom as it became
harder to fill the theatres with 'Live' entertainment.
A decision was made in 1924 to turn the Alhambra theatre into 'The Temple Of
Motion Pictures' and from then until 1965 it was one of the most popular cinemas
in fife and brought to the town all the great Hollywood blockbuster movies that
became so popular that people would queue of hours to see their favourite film or
film stars. It would be wrong to say that The Alhambra had failed as a theatre
because it was turned into a cinema but it had a great history and by the number
of letters I've received over the years the filmgoers of the area have many happy
memories of their visits to the Alhambra.
It's with great excitement that 80 years after the decision to stop bringing live
entertainment to the Canmore Street venue that entertainment tastes have again
changed and the quality of artistes that the new owners have planed to bring to the
Alhambra fills me with great warmth and feeling and I hope that the future is a
bright and successful one.
Surely the highlight of the Alhambra so far must be from August 1928 when the
then Duke & Duchess of York (later King & Queen) were given The Freedom Of
Dunfermline on the stage of The Alhambra. How many theatres can boast of that?