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Belmont Filmhouse shuts immediately with 20 staff made redundant as parent charity goes into administration

Locksmiths have been called to replace the locks on the Belmont.  Image: Craig Munro/DC Thomson
Locksmiths have been called to replace the locks on the Belmont. Image: Craig Munro/DC Thomson

The Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen has stopped trading after its parent charity was plunged into administration.

Twenty members of staff at the cinema have been made redundant.

Centre for the Moving Image (CMI), the parent charity behind the Belmont and two other filmhouses, says they are “facing the perfect storm” of sharply rising costs, alongside reduced trade due to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

They say the combination and scale of the “unprecedented ” challenges mean they had “no option but to take immediate action”.

CMI, founded in 2010, incorporates three wholly owned subsidiaries, The Edinburgh International Film Festival, Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen and the Edinburgh Filmhouse.

Bosses say attendances have only recovered to about 50% of pre-pandemic levels while energy bills are forecast to rise by £200,000 over the next 12 months.

Staff were seen leaving the filmhouse on Thursday. Image: Chris Sumner /DC Thomson.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has tasked the Scottish Government to examine whether any support can be provided.

Meanwhile, Creative Scotland and Aberdeen City Council are also exploring options.

Administrators put buildings up for sale sale

All of the three subsidiaries, including the Belmont, have ceased trading immediately, with Tom MacLennan and Chad Griffin of FRP Advisory appointed as joint administrators.

They will work with Creative Scotland and Edinburgh and Aberdeen councils to “assess what options” there are for the future.

They have already begun to place the assets up for sale and are looking for potential buyers already.

Film screenings have stopped at the Belmont immediately. Photo: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Mr MacLennan said: “Centre for the Moving Image was central to the development and promotion of Scotland’s thriving film industry and the catalyst behind many learning, cultural and development initiatives across Scotland.

“We are hopeful that businesses already operating in the film industry or entrepreneurs looking to enter the film industry will be encouraged to register their interest in the assets.”

A total of 102 staff have been made redundant, with five being kept on “to assist with the administration process”.

FRP Advisory say they will move “promptly” to support the staff with any applications to the Redundancy Payments Office for outstanding wages and holiday pay.

What if I have tickets?

Events and showings at the locations have all been cancelled.

There was a packed schedule of events in October, including, an evening with Ian Rankin.

Soundfestival, was also due to return this month, but they have announced they are now looking for a new venue for its events.

It is not known if customers will get their money back.

The future of the long-term partnerships Belmont Filmhouse has with other organistations is currently unknown.

Inside the projector room at the Belmont. Photo: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Why has Belmont Filmhouse gone into administration?

The charity has given a number of reasons for them to fall into administration.

    • Energy prices: Even with the recently announced energy price cap for businesses, their energy costs are rising by approximately £200k over the next 12 months.
    • Payroll Costs: As a proud accredited Real Living Wage employer, they face an increase of 10.1% in payroll costs over the next 12 months.
    • Public Funding: Public funding has been at a “standstill” for more than 8 years and the Scottish Government has indicated that the outlook beyond March 2023 for public funding is highly uncertain.
    • General Inflation: Running at between 10% and 30% for goods and services. There is no way of addressing this without passing on the cost increases to customers.
    • Trading: Cinema admissions at Filmhouse and Belmont Filmhouse have been running at approximately 50% of pre-pandemic levels, which is not sustainable in the medium term.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon tasks ministers to provide help

In Holyrood today, the first minister said the news was a “huge concern” and would leave many people in Aberdeen and Edinburgh “profoundly upset”.

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, she said: “These are really important cultural organisations and all of us want to see them – if at all possible – go from strength to strength.”

The SNP leader confirmed the Scottish Government will consider whether it can provide any support to the charity.

Culture Secretary Angus Robertson will be asked to engage with Aberdeen and Edinburgh city councils over the matter.

Creative Scotland, the public body supporting the screen industry – which said it was “saddened” by the news – will also be urged to be involved in talks.

Ms Sturgeon continued: “Obviously I can’t give any commitments standing here right now and I can’t go into any more detail ahead of that engagement but I can say we recognise the importance of these organisations and we’ll do everything we can to support them at this difficult time.”

Politicians rally around ‘iconic’ venue

Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart has also written to the Scottish Government to press for support for the Belmont Filmhouse to ensure it can survive administration.

He said: “This is an iconic venue held in high esteem by folk here and it’s a real shame that it has found itself in such hard times.

North East Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr has been a member of the Belmont for around 18 years.

He said: “The Belmont is part of Aberdeen’s cultural heritage and it would be impossible to replace.

Sandra Macdonald, Labour Group leader and councillor for Aberdeen City Centre said: “The council must act fast to save The Belmont.

“It should be taken over without delay by a body committed to continuing its mission of providing high-quality cinema in a top-class city centre environment.”

The locks were changed on the building as administrators took control. Image: Chris Sumner / DC Thomson.

Agencies working to explore options to save Belmont

A Creative Scotland spokesman said:  “We are saddened by the news from CMI, the loss of employment, of cultural cinema programming in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and the impact on the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

“We are working to explore future options for such cinema programming in both Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and for Edinburgh International Film Festival’s 2023 edition.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokesman said: “This will be a very difficult time for employees of the charity, and our immediate focus is to support those directly affected.

“We are being updated on the developing situation and will work with partners to explore available options.”

Meeting to save Belmont Cinema

After the announcement, a Save Belmont Cinema group was created on social media. 

The group has been set up by Jacob Campbell, the secretary of the Aberdeen Central Labour Party and Mae Diansangu.

The group is due to meet in Krakatoa at 12.30pm on Saturday October 8 to discuss potential solutions.

Mr Campbell said: “It’s high time that we as citizens fought to save our beloved community cinema.”

Charity says thank you to staff

The board of the CMI paid tribute to the dedication of staff, particularly during the early days of Covid.

A statement read: “We have been proud to have led the CMI through incredibly challenging times, and in particular during the worst days of the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, the combination of sharply increasing energy and other costs, together with both the lasting impacts of the pandemic and the rapidly emerging cost-of-living crisis affecting cinema attendances, means we have had no other option but to appoint administrators at this time.

“We would like to put on record our immense gratitude to the entire staff team whose passion for film as an artform and for the audiences and communities we work with and serve has remained undented by the challenges of recent years.

“We’re fully aware that this will be an exceptionally stressful time for them.”

Belmont Filmhouse’s heritage

What is now Belmont Filmhouse was initially built in 1896 as a trades hall.

The first film was shown on the premises in 1898 and featured footage of Queen Victoria at Balmoral.

After another refurbishment in 1935 it was renamed the Belmont Cinema.

The old cinema’s entrance in 1966. Photo: DC Thomson

It closed in 1953, and the building was converted into a warehouse. It reopened as The Belmont Picturehouse in September 2000 after a major refurbishment by Aberdeen City Council with assistance from the National Lottery and Scottish Screen.

In 2014, the Centre for the Moving Image was selected to take on the management and the Belmont became Belmont Filmhouse.

Since then, Belmont Filmhouse has become a beloved cultural institution in the city.

Heartbroken Belmont Filmhouse staff describe moment ‘strangers came in and said we’d lost our jobs’