Fresh hope for Edinburgh Filmhouse as lease agreed with new owners

The historic cinema on Lothian Road closed its doors in October 2022 after its parent company collapsed into administration.

Fresh hope for Edinburgh Filmhouse as lease agreed with new owners to reopen as cinema STV News

The Filmhouse cinema could return to Edinburgh after a deal was struck with the iconic building’s new owners.

The historic cinema on Lothian Road closed its doors in October 2022 after its parent company collapsed into administration.

It had been operating as a cinema from 1979 until its closure.

The B-listed building was then sold for £2.65m to property manager Caledonian Heritable in April 2023.

The new owners have now agreed a lease with a charity aiming to breathe new life into the cinema and once again open it as an independent film venue.

The charity, Filmhouse (Edinburgh) Ltd, was formed in late December 2022 by four former Filmhouse colleagues: James Rice, former programme manager and now a cinema strategist at specialist consultancy Mustard Studio; Rod White, former head of programming; David Boyd, former head of technical; and Ginnie Atkinson, former CEO of Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) until 2010. 

Screen Scotland awarded the charity £60,000 to support its planning and development work in the near-term.

A £1.25m fundraising campaign has now been launched with an interim lease agreed between the charity and new owners to enable a period of fundraising for essential refurbishment works.

Once the refurbishments have been carried out, the charity will enter a 21-year lease with Caledonian Heritable and the venue will operate as an independent cinema celebrating the diversity of filmmaking worldwide.

The reopened Filmhouse will operate independently as a cultural cinema and will run the in-house cafe-bar to support the charity.

Caledonian Heritable are currently undertaking a programme of upgrades to the fabric and will gift all projection equipment to the new Filmhouse, including the customised analogue 35mm and 70mm projectors.

Ginnie Atkinson said: “This is a significant step on the journey towards restoring cultural cinema provision for the city. Filmhouse is more than just a cinema – it’s a home for cinema lovers and for film festivals and is proud of its track record in the area of film education, which would continue. We are delighted to be able to launch the fundraising campaign with the goal of opening the doors to a newly refurbished cinema building in 2024.”

James Rice added: “The building is in an ideal city centre location and is well configured, but currently in run down condition. We want to improve and modernise the whole experience of visiting Filmhouse so it can survive and thrive into the future and we need the support of everyone who wants the same thing.”

A Caledonian Heritable spokesperson said: “Caledonian Heritable have a long-standing appreciation of the vital importance of culture and the arts to the City of Edinburgh. We are pleased to be working with Filmhouse, Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council in anticipation of a new era at this key cultural venue.”

The Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen was also run by the same parent company and it also shut last October.

Aberdeen City Council on Wednesday agreed a preferred operator for plans to bring the cinema back to life.

Belmont Community Cinema Ltd has set out plans to reopen the building as an independent, not-for-profit cinema, operated and programmed from Aberdeen, which focuses on four key areas – cultural film programming, education and filmmaking, community, and customer experience.

Aberdeen City Council co-leader Ian Yuill said: “People have missed having an independent cinema in our city centre since the Belmont Cinema closed. Choosing a preferred operator is a very important step towards reopening the Belmont Cinema under new management.

“We look forward to seeing the preferred operator develop their plans into a thriving and popular cinema once again.”

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