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New home in square

£50m plan for new Filmhouse in Edinburgh

The building would occupy Festival Square

An ambitious £50 million plan has been unveiled to build a landmark new home for Edinburgh Filmhouse in a largely under-used public square.

The proposed new Filmhouse building would be built in Festival Square between the Sheraton Hotel and Usher Hall.

Designed by Edinburgh-based Richard Murphy Architects, it would have six screens – twice the current number – and a rooftop restaurant and events space in an oculus or eye-shaped building twice the height of its neighbours.

Its location in Festival Square is designed to be “the catalyst that brings to life a currently underused public space”. It would place a responsibility on Filmhouse to “manage the curation of activity” within the surrounding square.

There are hopes that work will begin in 2023 with it opening in 2025.

The Filmhouse has been at the centre of Edinburgh’s cultural landscape for more than 40 years and is home to the Edinburgh International Film Festival and more than 20 other festivals and special events all year round.

The new building will create a hub for Edinburgh’s film and broader cultural community to base themselves in, and be a focal point for Edinburgh’s citizens to learn about film.

Filmhouse’s audiences have made it clear what they value and these have been built into the design: location, atmosphere, diversity of programme, education and learning activities, locally sourced food and drink in the Café Bar, and a safe and comfortable space for people to gather. The plan is that these will all be delivered to contemporary standards of access and comfort.

Ken Hay: hugely excited (pic: Terry Murden)

A consultation exercise will run for 12 weeks from today to 3 June to further develop the designs before submitting a formal planning application to the council during the summer.

Information on the proposed development including architect drawings and visualisations, the background to the development and FAQs will be available on the Filmhouse’s website. There will also be information and images on display at the Filmhouse including a scale model.

People will be able to give feedback through an online survey through the Filmhouse and EIFF websites, through comment cards in the Filmhouse, and formally and informally at events, meetings and discussions with Filmhouse staff.

Three all-day (10am – 7pm) public consultation events will take place in Filmhouse on Sunday 29 March, Wednesday 1 April and Tuesday 28 April where members of the Filmhouse team, Richard Murphy Architects and Montagu Evans will be present to answer questions and collect feedback.

There will be two Filmhouse Members’ Events for its more than 5,500 members on Sunday 29 March and Monday 6 April with opportunities for this key group of stakeholders to hear more and ask questions.

This proposed new building will transform what we’re able to do for Edinburgh’s residents and Scotland’s film community

– Ken Hay, Centre for Moving Image

The project is led by CMI’s board and senior management team, with support from property consultancy Montagu Evans.

Ken Hay, CEO of Centre for the Moving Image, which includes Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Film Festival, said: “This proposed new building will transform what we’re able to do for Edinburgh’s residents and Scotland’s film community, as well as providing Scotland with a physical celebration of the most popular art form. 

“Through doubling the number of screens and seats for regular cinema-goers, creating dedicated education and learning spaces, and developing an iconic festival centre, all within a fully accessible and carbon neutral building, this really is a 21st century temple for film.

“We are hugely excited about sharing this vision during the consultation period, and are looking forward to engaging with as many people as we can in helping us shape the future for Filmhouse and lovers of film.”

Sandy Begbie, chairman of Centre for the Moving Image, said: “These are very exciting times for the Filmhouse – the opportunity to create a new home for film in Edinburgh, with a landmark building in the city centre.

“This will provide a new state of the art home for Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Film Festival, but at its heart this is for the citizens of Edinburgh and Scotland and the entire film industry.  

“The building will retain the purpose, values and culture that has served us so well over many years but in a building that will take us forward for the next 50 years.  

“This will also allow us to continue the valuable work we do in the community and the development of talent for the Scottish film industry.

“This is what makes us different and the new building will provide the facilities to grow and develop that work.”

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