Edinburgh Filmhouse to reopen following 15m funding

Edinburgh Filmhouse to reopen following £1.5m funding

The Edinburgh Filmhouse is to reopen two years after it closed with the help of £1.5 million funding from the UK Government.

The independent cinema opened in 1979 in a former Presbyterian Church with only one screen but became a cultural icon with a programme compared to the British Film Theatre in London.

It closed on October 6, 2022 following the collapse of umbrella company Centre for the Moving Image and a grassroots campaign began to save it, backed by actors including Ewen Bremner and Brian Cox.

A business model was created to relaunch the cinema, with a board of trustees including some who worked there for two decades.

A Crowdfunder which aimed to raise £300,000 has almost met its target at £254,430.

The trustees learned on March 19 their application for money from the Levelling Up Fund was being granted by the UK Government and they are now preparing to sign the lease on May 1 ahead of a huge refurbishment.

Plans include a complete refit, the addition of a fourth screen for educational use, and reducing the seating capacity from 450 to 350 to make it more comfortable, as well as increasing accessibility inside the cinema.

James Rice, who began working in the box office in 2003 before leaving in 2019, said without the funding the future would have been uncertain.

Mr Rice said: “If we hadn’t got the grant, I don’t know what the outcome would have been.

“The refit matters because it helps us to attract new people in. We want to try to introduce people to a broader range of cinema.

“The core message is to deliver a full programme, including documentaries and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“A large proportion of what we do is not screened at other cinemas.

“We have got to this point because of the strength of feeling and support, from letter writing and public meetings. There’s some people who worked here who went onto be film-makers.”

Mr Rice said cinema faced new challenges from streaming services and firesticks, but that Edinburgh had seen an increase of 33% turnout in cinemas over the past year compared to 2022.

The Filmhouse described its programme as “the most ambitious cultural film programme outside the British Film Theatre” in London’s Southbank and also hosted the Edinburgh International Film Festival for many years.

Options are being explored regarding pricing, including “pay what you can”, and efforts are being made to ensure cost is not a barrier to accessibility.

Trustee Ginnie Atkinson said another £800,000 has been raised from donors and philanthropists but described the UK Government funding as “transformational”.

She said plans were afoot to “modernise” amid complaints the original seats did not provide enough space and were threadbare.

Ms Atkinson said: “This is absolutely transformational. When we applied the amount was aspirational. We have to attract new audiences and make it a modern, comfortable cinema experience.

“Our aspiration is to open on October 6, the two-year anniversary of it closing. We are hoping before Christmas.”

However, she said an opening date could be between six months and a year.

Scotland Office minister Donald Cameron was given a tour of the building and welcomed the funding boost.

He said “communities” which benefited included artists, international students and people living outside Edinburgh.

Mr Cameron said: “It’s really important that a facility like this is accessible to everyone. People travel from the Borders to visit. We hope it attracts people from across Scotland.

“We hope the Filmhouse will be able to open again. It is for the local community. I think it’s right that the UK Government is funding it.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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