King's Theatre

The only surviving theatre in the Dundee area capable of hosting large touring productions. Much of the opulent original auditorium remains and could be restored.

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21-29 Cowgate, Dundee
Risk Rating
6 (Community Value: 3, Star Rating: 1, Risk Factor: 2)
Local Authority
Dundee City Council
25 – 29 Cowgate: Park Investments (Dundee) Ltd (currently in administration); 23 Cowgate: Duthus Properties Ltd; 21 Cowgate: Private Owner
James Thomson
Date of Construction
Category B
1,000 (estimated)


If restored, the handsome King’s Theatre could become a great asset to the city of Dundee, which is in need of a large proscenium touring house. The theatre has an impressive frontage and originally had lavish interiors including spacious front of house areas, lined in mahogany and teak, and a very opulent auditorium in the Edwardian manner with decorative panels. It features Baroque and Rococo style plasterwork, a fine saucer domed ceiling with frescoes and a marble proscenium frame. Work to the theatre in 1955 sadly included the partial demolition of the balcony and the insertion of a false ceiling above the circle. After closing as a bingo hall, much archaeological investigation took place and it was established that enough of the original interior (including the ceiling) remains intact to enable the theatre to be restored.

Why is this theatre at risk?

After the cinema closed in 1982, part of the building was run as a bingo hall and then partly as a themed bar/nightclub. The retail units at ground floor are currently in use. The nightclub that operated from the auditorium was closed, but appears to have been reopened as of December 2017. The roof that was previously leaking into the billiards room, on the top floor, has been repaired, however the Cowgate elevation masonry is damp in sections. The south-western façade is showing extended foliage growth, which is a significant risk to both the building and the passing public. Additionally, two second floor windows are beginning to move inwards.

Current situation

The King's Theatre Trust (KTT) has been actively campaigning to purchase and restore the theatre for live performance. Its plans include the adjoining Continental Ballroom, which would provide cross-subsidising retail and bar/restaurant facilities. KTT has recently been reviewing different strategies to take advantage of new legislation and funding opportunities in Scotland, including investigating funding for a viability study. In 2017 it was successful in a funding bid to carry out community engagement that will allow a consultant to be engaged and importantly help raise awareness and gather valuable feedback from the community to aid future funding applications. This work is ongoing.

Theatres Trust is providing fundraising and capital project advice and has provided KTT with links to other similar project teams and links to Historic Environment Scotland, which features the building on its Heritage at Risk Register.

The building is under various different ownerships with the main body of the building including auditorium and stage house, changing ownership in summer 2018. The new owner is real estate company Sava Estates Limited, which reportedly acquired the building for £240,000. The new owner’s intentions for the building are currently unknown, however acquisition included the benefit of existing leases – cafe within the foyer area and a nightclub in the main auditorium – both of which are currently operational.

Image: King's Theatre, Theatres Trust