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Exclusive: Belmont Filmhouse ‘likely to reopen’ as more bids to take over beloved cinema come in

Craig Thom has been overwhelmed with support since announcing his plans. 
Picture by Kenny Elrick / DC Thomson
Craig Thom has been overwhelmed with support since announcing his plans. Picture by Kenny Elrick / DC Thomson

Craig Thom has had a busy day.

After announcing his plans to take over Aberdeen’s freshly shuttered Belmont Filmhouse, the 26-year-old has been juggling media requests and meetings with city bigwigs since the early morning.

All this while running his Faffless cafe and bar, and seeking the views of the cinema’s crestfallen fans on what they want for its future.

He’s even managed to fit in an email exchange with an independent cinema in London, asking for tips on how to successfully run such a venture in the current climate.

Here’s how the Evening Express covered the news on Friday morning.

And speaking to the Press and Journal tonight, Craig revealed he is “certain” the Belmont Filmhouse will be back – even if it’s not his vision that ultimately becomes reality…

The businessman wants to turn the lower ground floor into a new restaurant while keeping the three-screen arthouse cinema in operation upstairs.

But he has been advised that others have come in with different bids since the shock closure of the venue on Thursday morning.

Whatever happens, there is a sense of urgency in bringing the cinema back to life – and saving the 20 jobs now lost.

Employees put on a brave face as they left the cinema, fearing it could be for the final time. Picture by Chris Sumner

Craig Thom: Belmont ‘will be back’

Though optimistic, Craig is aware it “may not end up being Faffless that takes it on”.

But in news sure to come as some relief to the cinema’s fans, he is confident the projectors will flicker back into life sooner rather than later.

Craig said: “There have been expressions of interest from another couple of people – though I don’t know any of the details about those.

“So it is good that, no matter what happens, I think it will be reopened.”

Jacob Campbell, who runs the Save The Belmont Cinema group on Facebook, says a form of community ownership is one competing idea being “floated”.

He added: “It could engage people and make people feel that they’re part of it’s success, revitalising it as a community hub whilst making it business resilient for the future.”

Owner of the Faffless cafe, Craig Thom, wants to buy the Belmont Filmhouse and save as many of the 20 jobs lost as possible. Picture by Kenny Elrick

Any new lease of life must come soon

Craig, originally from Fraserburgh, believes the head-spinning pace of his plans is necessary.

He said: “It’s been moving forward at a quick pace, but it needs to.

“Otherwise, we will lose all the talent that the Belmont Filmhouse ever had. We want to be able to offer staff their old jobs back where we can.”

Long-serving employees built up a strong bond with the Aberdeen institution.

What else has happened as plans gather momentum?

Craig admits he had been nervous prior to making his intentions public.

But the reaction has made him surer than ever that he’s “definitely on to something”.

He added: “It’s made me sure we can make a solid go of it…”

The young entrepreneur’s day consisted of meeting Aberdeen City Council higher-ups, and even top brass from the Creative Scotland arts agency.

The local authority owns the building and officers filled Craig in on “what they would need from him” to turn his dream into reality.

And he is already looking at ways to make the potential new business viable.

He explained: “I’ve been in touch with the Genesis arthouse cinema in London, I want to go beyond just Scotland to see what these places are doing.

“I want to learn from them about what we can do to make it work.

But I don’t think this is just about making money, it’s about that community spirit.”

Craig Thom in Faffless, which is just a short walk away from Belmont Street.

One thing Craig won’t be changing, though, is the name.

If he is successful, the cinema would still be known as the Belmont Filmhouse.

The restaurant would be called “Faffless at the Movies”.

Local politicians meet Craig to discuss ideas

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart and Labour councillor Ross Grant, who also works with Aberdeen Inspired, both stopped by Faffless on Friday.

Mr Grant told us that getting support in place for the Belmont team is “vital”, and confirmed he had been in talks with Craig as well as campaigners eager to explore “possible options”.


He added: “What will be important is that there is strong collaboration while the council, as the proprietor, sets out how it intends to proceed so that we might save this great venue.”

Community spirit has been ‘heartening’

Mr Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central, added: “Having spoken with Craig, I was interested to hear his proposals and it’s great that people are coming forward with their ideas about how to keep the Belmont’s future in the frame.

“While the initial shock of the closure has been startling, I have been heartened by the enthusiasm and community spirit that has come alive to protect such a rich part of Aberdeen’s cultural heritage.”

An Aberdeen City Council spokesman stressed that the authority would be acting only as landlord, rather than taking any role in the future of the business.

He said: “Officers will continue to respond to inquiries in response to yesterday’s news, and will share information received with the administrators.”

As for Craig, he’s off to stage a wine-tasting event in Stonehaven – and preparing for another busy week ahead.

‘I feel like I’ve had a part removed’: Belmont Filmhouse boss pays tribute after 15 years