King's Theatre

Kirkcaldy’s main cinema until its closure in 2000. Currently being restored to create Fife’s largest performing arts venue.

Dilapidated auditorium of King's Kirkcaldy.
252-262 High Street, Kirkcaldy, Fife, KY1 1LA
Risk Rating
5 (Community Value: 3, Star Rating: 1, Risk Factor: 1)
Local Authority
Fife Council
J D Swanston & William Williamson
Date of Construction
Category B (façade only)
Estimated at 2,000


Originally opening as the King’s Theatre in 1904, the building at the High Street’s east end was of lavish construction with balcony overhang, boxes on either side and Italian marble stairways, with only the latter remaining today. In January 1905 a young Charlie Chaplin played three nights here in a Sherlock Holmes play before finding fame in Hollywood soon after. The building became an opera house and later a cinema, remaining Kirkcaldy’s main picture house until its closure in 2000. The façade of the original 1904 building still survives. The interior was once similar to the architect’s magnificent King's Theatre in Edinburgh. It was gutted in 1937 to be rebuilt in streamlined cinema mode and was later converted to three screens. Nevertheless, some of the original decorative plasterwork to the ceiling, stained glass window, art deco box office and theatre wall decoration still exists, preserved behind later alterations.

Why is this theatre at risk?

The King’s Theatre Kirkcaldy has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2016.

After closing as a cinema in 2000 the building was sold to the Commercial Pub Company and planning permission was granted for the conversion to a pub and performance venue. However, listed building consent for internal and external decorations was later withdrawn. The building was sold again in 2005 but remained empty, suffering from a lack of maintenance.

In August 2016 the building was bought by Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Ltd, who have the long-term ambition to restore the building. This work will require a capital funding and reports have been undertaken to understand the work required:

  • A conditions survey considering the three key buildings of the site, Kings Theatre, 262 High Street and No 9 Esplanade, was completed by Page\Park Architects in 2021. It revealed that the theatre building is in very poor condition, with no live services and limited access.
  • An asbestos survey was also carried out in January 2021, identifying asbestos that would need to be removed before any refurbishment or demolition could take place.

Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Ltd received grant funding of £87,000 from Historic Environment Scotland to carry out temporary roof repairs over the main theatre auditorium to prevent further water ingress and deterioration of the fabric.

While there has been progress there is still a long way to go before the future of the building is secured. The group continues to fundraise to realise its ambition to restore and fully reopen the building as a performing arts venue.

Theatre potential

There is much local interest in restoring the building for community use and Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Limited long-term plans to restore the building to create Fife’s largest performing arts venue.

The project is part of a wider ambition that includes the former YWCA at the rear of the building, which has also been bought by the Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Limited. The YWCA has been adapted to form a live event space and a 50-seat café and restaurant to help subsidise the works to the theatre. Fife College is partnering for this aspect of the work and grant funding was secured including Placed Based Investment Programme funding from Fife Council. The building also features space for a recording studio, offices, training and community use, as well as a flexible 500-seat multi-use theatre hall.

The successful operation of the YWCA and 9 Esplanade is central to Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Ltd’s fundraising strategy for the renovation of the main theatre building. In September 2019, the group launched the Kings Live Lounge in 9 Esplanade, showing a mixed programme of music, comedy, and cabaret, running alongside events for community groups. This was a milestone for the group, helping to promote its work and fund the renovation of the theatre. A new food and drink hub in the courtyard was also created with funding from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation’s Adapt & Thrive scheme. However, the Covid-19 pandemic caused significant disruption, with closures for large parts of 2020 and 2021 which had a significant impact on the organisation’s finances. Since reopening, the focus has been on reconnecting with audiences and putting the organisation back on a stable footing financially, which has led to the capital project being paused.  

Current situation

The project initially gathered great momentum and energy under the leadership of Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Ltd; early fundraising success enabled substantial progress in a very limited period. Theatres Trust supported the group through its workshop program and by providing advice on aspects of building work.

In 2021 King’s Theatre Kirkcaldy Ltd received a £15,000 grant  from Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme  to commission a community feasibility study for the theatre to provide a comprehensive understanding of the audience and market demand.

The report, completed in October 2022, concluded there was significant support for restoration and / or development of the site, with a clear desire for a multi-functional arts-based space that could support the regeneration of the town centre.  The report made a number of recommendations including:

  • Redevelopment of the foyer to provide community space for arts, events and activities
  • Increasing the size of the Board to add capacity to the organisation
  • Appoint a fundraiser or project manager to drive the redevelopment project forward

Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic meant that Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Ltd had to focus attention on rebuilding its existing operations and income strands, leading to a pause in the redevelopment project. While the ambition and demand to restore and reopen the main theatre as a large-scale performance space for the people of Kirkcaldy and district has been established, the timing needs to be right for Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Ltd to embark on this significant project, and funding needs to be secured. Theatres Trust will continue to support Kings Theatre Kirkcaldy Ltd in its ambition to restore and reopen the main theatre to create a thriving creative entertainment hub for both the local and wider area. However, until these plans can be delivered, the theatre will remain on the Theatres at Risk Register.

Campaign video (from 2016)

Main image King's Theatre, Kirkcaldy, David Clark