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The Futurist Theatre: A Brief History

After almost 100 years the final curtain has fallen on Scarborough's Futurist Theatre - and this time it looks like there is no chance of an encore.

As the council reviews plans to replace The Futurist with a new up-to-date visitor attraction, we take a brief look at the history of the fifth largest theatre outside of London.

Catlins Arcadia


The site of the Futurist was first used for entertainment 1903 when Kiralfy's Arcadia Theatre opened. The name of the theatre was later changed to Catlin's Arcadia.

Kingscliffe Holiday Camp occupied the hillside behind Catlin's Arcadia adjacent to Bland's Cliff.

Kingscliffe Holiday Camp Scarborough


In July 1912 the Palladium Picture House was opened next door

Catlin's Arcadia & Palladium Picture House


In 1920 Catlin's Arcadia closed and was demolished to make way for The Futurist Cinema, designed by F. A. Tugwell.

The neighbouring Palladium was renamed the Arcadia and began to host live shows.

The Futurist Cinema 1930s


In 1957 the Cinema was converted for live theatre use by Captain Ritson who removed the former Cinema's organ pipes and constructed two staircases which descended to the new stage.

In 1959 the proscenium was widened.


In 1960 The Futurist was bought by theatrical producer and impresario, Robert Luff. Under his ownership the theatre became a popular venue for concerts, shows and summer seasons.

1964 The Beatles arrive at The Futurist Theatre in Scarborough
The Beatles arrive at The Futurist Theatre in 1964 
The Beatles' made their first visit to The Futurist Theatre on 11th December 1963 they returned on one subsequent occasion the following year on the 9th August.

Further extensions were made to the stage in the 60s to in order accommodate the famous Black and White Minstrels Show, which went on to be performed at the theatre to packed audiences for many years throughout the sixties and seventies.

The extension to the stage meant the closure of the adjacent Arcadia Theatre which then became a lounge.

The Futurist Theatre 1968
1968, before the addition of the infamous cladding
In 1968 the Futurist Theatre was redesigned by Cassidy, Farrington & Dennys and expanded to include a new and much larger stage over much of the site of the former Palladium Picture House next door.

Boxes were also added to either side of the proscenium - although bizarrely they have no view of the stage.

At this time the exterior was also radically altered with the theatre's original Italianate style glazed ceramic facade covered by the infamous yellow panels that are still in place today.


The Futurist was bought by Scarborough Council in 1985 and leased the theatre to Apollo Leisure Ltd (UK), who ran it until September 2002.


In 2002, Scarborough Borough Council leased the property to Brenda and Barrie Stead, who refurbished the theatre and cinema installing new projectors, DTS sound system and a new CinemaScope screen.

Since then, the couple have run the Futurist on a year to year basis, with subsidies from the local authority.


In 2009 The Futurist was added to the Theatres Trust Theatre Buildings At Risk Register as High risk

A £100,000 subsidy was agreed by Scarborough Borough Council in November 2009, securing the future of the theatre until at least the end of 2010.

Scarborough Council set up a ‘task group’, charged with examining options for the future and are asked to report their findings by autumn 2010.


In 2010 campaigners applied to English Heritage to have the Futurist added to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest in an attempt to save it from closure.

Management and construction consultancy firm Knight Frank told the Futurist Task Group that financing the redevelopment of the Futurist complete with theatre would be ‘wasting taxpayers money on something which is not needed’.

The consultants suggested that the best alternative would be to include a casino, cinema, hotel or residential accommodation with car parking and a restaurant, although that the market would not be able to sustain such a development until at least 2012.

Theatre consultants on the other hand believed that the building's future relied instead on the introduction of a refreshed entertainment itinerary, but warned that the theatre was at risk from rival venues in the town.

The Futurist’s unusual configuration was highlighted as a potential problem when it came to attracting big shows however due to the theatre’s small stage and negligible wing space.

Scarborough Borough Council commissioned Sheffield based architects Studio Gedye, on behalf of the Futurist Task Group, to produce a 'concept and vision' for the Futurist site including the Theatre, King Street Car Park and associated land.

Artists impression by Studio Gedye shows restored facade with the yellow cladding removed.

The concept and vision was put together in order to give Councillors and the public a clear idea of how the site could be transformed and covered several potential scenarios. Options included retaining the Theatre’s facade and replacing the theatre with a new iconic seafront hotel and/or visitor attraction.

Artists Impression of New Iconic Sea Front Hotel
Artists Impression by Studio Gedye showing concept for a new 'Iconic Hotel'.


After completing an assessment of the building the Minister for Tourism and Heritage, decided not to list the Futurist Theatre. Campaigners fighting to save The Futurist Theatre lodged an appeal.


The Department of Culture announced it would be upholding the original decision not to list the Futurist Theatre.

An expert in renovating historical buildings removed some of the theatre’s infamous cladding for the first time in over 40 years in a bid to determine the condition of the building’s original frontage.

Initial findings reported that the original ceramic facade was in "reasonable condition" for its age and that there was no reason it could not be salvaged.


On 9th September 2013 Scarborough Council decided that the Futurist Theatre ‘was not sustainable’ and that development should be progressed on the site.

In November campaigners fighting to save The Futurist from closure presented Council leader Tom Fox with a petition of more than 4,000 signatures.

On 13th December, with no agreement being reached with the current leaseholder, the decision was taken to close the Futurist for a three month period from 5 January 2014, whilst seeking another operator for a year only. No operator was found.


The theatre was closed on 5th January 2014 and the site including the Futurist and surrounding shops is marketed for redevelopment.

Bids to develop the site were received from two bidders in 2014. One was dismissed although the other, from a mysterious ‘Bidder B’, was supported in principle by councillors.

Bidder B’s plans proposed demolishing the Theatre to make way for a major new tourist attraction including a 'Magical cave'.

In October 2014 the identity of ‘Bidder B’ was revealed as local theme park operator Flamingo Land. If passed the plans will see the construction of a new visitor attraction named ‘Flamingo Land Coast’.

Concepts of how the new attraction may look have been revealed by the council.

So what does the future hold for The Futurist? Will it be demolished? Will a new attraction change the skyline of Scarborough’s South Bay?

Share your thoughts & memories by commenting below.

Plus, if there's anything you think we should add - just shout up!

The Futurist Theatre: A Brief History Reviewed by Editor on 11:24:00 Rating: 5


  1. So "our council" have sold the Futurist to Flamingoland who will build a new attraction for our fair town....

    Is it true the council must demolish and remove the present building at "their" expense? Is it true they are the also responsible for making the rear retaining wall secure, so accepting liability for life?

    If so, it looks like "we" will be paying for a private company to make more money and "our" council screw it up again? Or was the corner cafe development a 100% success?

    1. Just to add to the ever expanding list of Scarborough Council Cock ups..
      The old eyesore that was once Scarborough Town Football Club on Seamer Road, The Dean Road Site that Scarborough Council were going to sell to Tesco even though public opinion wished it to be sold to Asda. And now that Tesco are no longer interested, the area now looks like it's just going to be left to look like another scab on our landscape.
      And so as for The Futurist Site, no doubt Scarborough Council will dream up some ludicrous plan to turn it into another eyesore like a roller coaster ride or something similar... But lets not waste our breath trying to point them in the right direction, they simply will not listen.

  2. You see so many other towns and cities resurrecting their once beautiful theatres and lovingly restoring them to their former glory (Bradford and Newcastle to name buyt two)......but not Scarborough! Oh no - our wonderful Council want to destroy one of the largest iconic theatres in the North and replace it with yet another tacky 'theme park'. Sorry but one season with the weather from the north east and it will become a faded and jaded site like a lot of other similar amusements. Why not realis that top artists are turning to regional towns now for their tours - they realise that not everyone can afford to travel to London to see them, nor can they realistically fill arenas any more. So where are we in all this? Well we have The Spa - and that's it! A level stalls area, high stage and no atmosphere (probably due to the overbearing staff 'patrolling' the aisles menacingly throughout the shows). Come on Scarborough .... the Futurist CAN be great again - use a bit of imagination and incorporate a decent café/restaurant, a small community area for local talent, decent facilities for visiting artists, and restore this popular landmark to its former glory. Before it's too late.

  3. The council needs to find the millions it has donated to Benchmark to build flats and more flats on the old kinderland site.. Surely their back pockets have enough of our towns money in them,,don't they have shame? Or is it shame on us for voting them in, year after year?

  4. After watching the close of the Floral Hall then the Opera House, it feels like the final nail in the coffin for Scarborough theatre and traditional holiday entertainment, the end of a lovely era. If I had the money I would certainly save the Futurist, it's the theatre I feel most fondest of in all the country. What fantastic, spectacular shows it's held and amazing stars it has seen. It's walls must be ringing with holiday-maker's laughter in a way no other attraction will. The Futurist was the very essence of Scarborough, a proud venue standing the test of time, grandly presented on the sea front, welcomed by performers, holiday-makers and locals alike, bringing the tourists in with it's wonderful shows. A fantastic night out in a wonderful location. Why would anyone want to replace a price-less antique like this for a modern inferior replica entertainment venue? They don't make things like they used to and not everything modern is a good thing. It will truely be a sad day when it is gone forever. It's the slippery slope, what will be next? Flatten Peasholm Park?


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