Aberdeen’s Belmont Filmhouse could be brought back to life this summer – and might be run by the campaigners fighting for its future.
Former manager Dallas King addressed a packed crowd at the Blue Lamp on the Gallowgate on Monday night.
Dallas, who is helping lead rescue efforts, was so shocked when he heard about the cinema’s closure in early October that he raced down to see what was happening.
When he arrived, he found the locks being changed and the P&J there capturing the sad moment.
Dallas described the experience as “The Nightmare on Belmont Street”.
But now, its devotees’ dreams of a reopening could be on the brink of coming true.
When could Belmont Filmhouse reopening happen?
Addressing a crowd of about 80 people from a stage in the pub, Dallas outlined how the Belmont Filmhouse could come back to life.
He said: “I had no idea so many people believed in the Belmont…
“As Rocky Balboa would say, it’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward
“And things are moving forward.”
Aberdeen City Council owns the building but it’s still in the hands of the administrators.
A feasibility study has been taking place in recent months, looking at models that would work best for the cinema.
It will soon be complete, and the council today told campaigners that a report will be with officers next month.
After that, it will go to the authority’s finance committee on May 17 – when it could be decided to put the building out to tender.
The audience heard that, at that point, the Save The Belmont Cinema campaign group will be bidding to take it on as a community trust.
It’s too early to say when it could reopen, but there are hopes that it could be in time to screen summer blockbusters.
Dallas added: “We will see you at the movies… Hopefully very soon.”
‘I wasn’t surprised when it shut’
But he is under no illusions about the challenges of running a cinema in this day and age.
He added: “I went every Thursday and I was devastated when I heard it was closing, but I wasn’t too surprised.
“The last time I was in, there were three others there. Sometimes we had the cinema to ourselves…”
So how would the Belmont Filmhouse stay alive after reopening?
The campaigners have several ideas on how to bring in extra cash.
Dallas suggested the kitchen could be reopened to local independent food companies – becoming the scene for pilot projects.
In time, he thinks it could cultivate a scene like the food trucks at the beach.
Another idea would be selling seats to individual super-fans, who could have their own place with a name plaque on it.
Jenni Robertson worked at the Belmont from September 2021 until it closed.
She told the meeting: “It’s not going to be the same. It’s going to be better.”
What else are campaign team doing?
Save the Belmont leader Jacob Campbell explained how the movement began within hours of the doors being slammed on the Belmont Street building.
And, as the crusade gathers pace, the group has now launched its own website too.
Secretary Gwen Smith revealed that their work has included looking at what cruise ship passengers will do when they come to Aberdeen, and how a resurgent cinema could link in with efforts to revive Union Street.
They’ve also been taking lessons from independent venues like Peterhead’s Arc Cinema and the Montrose Playhouse.
And experts from community projects, such as the Cabrach Trust in Moray, have also been consulted.
‘We are going to win the fight’
Jacob explained it would be a “community-orientated and run sustainable cinema”.
He added: “We are going to fight for a cinema and we are going to win.”
Well attended and positive meeting @JazzatBluelamp tonight to hear about good progress towards #savebelmont @BelmontCinema. Looking forward to doing what I can and looking through the new website https://t.co/N27kgzhcRM https://t.co/J9xILuA6uA
— Liam Kerr (@LiamKerrMSP) March 27, 2023
We recently approached Aberdeen City Council about rumours the venue could be reopened by the summer.
A spokeswoman would not comment on the speculation, but confirmed that studies into its future would be completed this spring.