Grant awarded

UK funding will see Edinburgh Filmhouse reopen

Edinburgh Filmhouse (DBMS)
The filmhouse has been closed since October 2022 (pic: Terry Murden / DB Media Services)

Edinburgh Filmhouse, which closed two years ago under a mountain of rising costs, will reopen after receiving support through the UK government’s levelling up fund.

It has been handed £1.5 million from Westminster that will top up just over £254,000 raised through a crowdfunding campaign.

One trustee, Ginnie Atkinson, said another £800,000 had been raised from donors and philanthropists, but she described the UK government funding as “transformational”.

She said the venue needed modernisation amid complaints the original seats did not provide enough space and were threadbare.

The independent cinema opened in 1979 in a former Presbyterian church and developed a following among movie buffs, partly for its showing of films outside the mainstream.

In 2020 it unveiled ambitious plans for a new cinema in neighbouring Festival Square, but it was forced to close in October 2022 after its owner, the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI) faced a torrent of rising and unsustainable costs.

A campaign to save it was backed by a number of Scottish actors. A business model was created with a board of trustees including some who had worked there for two decades.

The trustees learned on Tuesday that their application for money from the Levelling Up Fund had been approved by the UK government. They are now preparing to sign the lease on 1 May before a 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. Accessibility inside the building will also be improved.

Richard E Grant
Richard E Grant was among those who appeared at the Film Festival (pic: Terry Murden)

James Rice, who began working in the box office in 2003 before leaving in 2019, said that without the funding the future would have been uncertain. He said: “If we hadn’t got the grant, I don’t know what the outcome would have been.

“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 on to be film-makers.”

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

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

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

Commenting on the new funding, 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.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked as *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.