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Exclusive: Inside the Belmont Cinema as images reveal new look planned for Aberdeen venue

The Belmont Cinema team lifts the lid on how they plan to revive the forlorn picture house.

Picture shows (L-R): James Erwin, Jacob Campbell, Catriona Tanner, Dallas King, Murray Dawson in Screen 1 at the Belmont Cinema in Aberdeen.
The Belmont Cinema team. Picture of (L-R) James Erwin, Jacob Campbell, Catriona Tanner, Dallas King, Murray Dawson. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Dallas King opens the door of Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema and countless memories flood his mind.

The mecca for film fans has been paused in time since those doors were abruptly slammed shut almost two years ago.

We make our way down the corridor, posters advertising films from 2022 still adorning the walls, as we head past a ticket booth that’s been gathering dust since that October.

Venturing into the projection room, former manager Dallas pushes a button that brings the forlorn filmhouse back to life – if only for a few moments.

Once the revamp is under way, the projectors will be upgraded too. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Beamed onto the big screen is the new Belmont Cinema logo. It’s something of a milestone as the campaign to bring Aberdeen’s independent arts venue back to life steps up.

I take my seat and hear all about how this next part of their crucial campaign will make Aberdeen “fall in love with cinema again”…

The beloved Aberdeen cinema shut in October 2022…Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Our exclusive inside look at the plans features:

  • The new designs aimed at reinvigorating the venue
  • How architects will pay homage to the “golden age of cinema”
  • And how the biggest screening room will be “gutted”, with plush new seating replacing 25-year-old chairs

New era for Belmont Cinema begins…

I meet the Belmont Cinema team just a few hours before they go on to reveal their bold new vision for the venue to potential investors.

I’m an audience of one as their presentation flickers to life on the silver screen. Sadly there’s not any popcorn, but maybe one day soon there will be…

Aberdeen’s equivalent of the Avengers, they’ve brought their combined skills together to achieve what might once have seemed a superhuman task.

A lot of work has been done since the start of January this year. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Dallas and Jacob Campbell form a double act as leaders of the initiative, joined by fundraising guru Sarah Dingwall, architect Catriona Tanner and designer James Erwin.

They’re now ready to lure more supporters – with dozens of banners, flyers and pins bearing the Belmont’s new brand at the ready to be showed off.

And yet, Dallas and Jacob are somewhat nervous.

This is a major step forward in plans to revive the cinema and its reopening relies on public support.

It took Dallas and Jacob just about 30 minutes after the announcement of the closure to start a campaign group, devoted to saving the venue. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Dallas’ face stretches into a huge grin as the new Belmont Cinema logo is splashed on the big screen.

“This is the beginning of a new era for the Belmont,” he smiles.

“We’ve been working on some great things for the venue. And we are very excited to finally show everybody what we have in store.”

Inside Belmont Cinema
Empty…for now. Image: Kenny Elrick/ DC Thomson.

What’s the story behind the new Belmont Cinema logo?

The most important thing to kick-start the next phase of the project was coming up with a fresh brand for the well-known filmhouse.

A burst of bright orange and yellow, the new logo with a big B – symbolising cinema seats and the Belmont’s distinctive entrance arch – “screams of a new beginning”.

What they like most about the logo is that it instils confidence in the Belmont team’s determination to succeed in their endeavour. It ‘looks like they know what they are doing’, Dallas says. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Studio 42 brand specialist James has been instrumental in creating a “vibrant” concept that would appeal to all – from hardcore Belmont fans to newcomers and investors.

The new logo is simple but effective, he says.

Its colours nod to the golden age of cinema, but it’s also modern to attract younger audiences.

Design director Catriona Tanner and and brand specialist James Erwin were essential to helping the project take shape. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

“We wanted to make the branding memorable and timeless,” Jacob adds.

“With this, we are going back to basics, back to the times when cinema was great and people had loads of memories going to the pictures.”

‘We will make Belmont Cinema look a million dollars’

The launch of the logo is also the start of the Belmont Cinema team’s ambitious crowdfunding journey as they aim to raise £2 million for the transformation.

Dallas and Jacob will present their plans to the public at the Douglas Hotel at 10am today in hope of luring in further cash support for their cause.

There is a lot of work to be done at the Belmont… Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

But, as Jacob puts it, “to make a million dollars, you need to look like a million dollars”.

And this is where Catriona and her team at Tinto Architecture come in.

They aim to make the cinema a “real destination” for film fans.

I get comfy in my seat as a new set of slides goes up on the screen.

Tinto Architecture design director Catriona Tanner and her colleagues Lizzi Nutt, Fay Stables and Horacio Bacarreza will be helping the venue come to life. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Catriona begins to tell me of all of the changes they hope to make in the venue, with these images offering a stunning vision of its transformation from shabby to chic.

New entrance to become a ‘beacon’ on Belmont Street

We start off with the entrance, which will be completely refurbished with new doors and an old-school cinema canopy to act as a “beacon” on Belmont Street.

Customers will then be led into a bright orange and dark blue corridor. Arch-shaped features on the walls will carry on the branding’s B-theme.

Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
The entrance has been designed to be bold, but still aimed at retaining the grandeur of the original arch. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.
Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
The front gate with the new logo will be see-through in a bid to make everyone feel welcome, letting people peer in even when the cinema is shut. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.

Unlike your average multiplex, where the walls are adorned only with posters advertising upcoming blockbusters, the Belmont Cinema will strive for a more homely feel.

In addition to movie posters, cork boards will allow customers to put up posters. This is to stress the community aspect of the refurbished cinema.

This is how the Belmont Cinema corridor looks now. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson
Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
And this is how it could look like once it’s refurbished. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.

The box office – also adorned with an traditional illuminated sign – will be moved from its current spot by the doorway to make it the centrepiece of the front area.

‘It’s all about enriching the space’

Catriona says they aimed to open up the space and “inject warmth” in it.

With that in mind, the former ticket booth will be removed and the wall knocked through to allow more seating in the foyer, while the staircase to the screens will be widened.

Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
This is how the front area could look like following the revamp. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.
Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
The staircase to the screens will be widened and fully revamped. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.
Quite the change from this, isn’t it? Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

The popcorn kiosk – now dubbed the “tangerine dream” – will remain in its usual place, however, it will be bigger and brighter.

“It’s all about enriching the space,” Catriona tells me.

“We wanted to make it warm and welcoming, but also dynamic and exciting.”

Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
The Tangerine Dream – or as us mundanes call it, the popcorn stand. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.

New seating as 25-year-old chairs deemed ‘not bonnie’

Staying on brand with the orange colours, all of the screens will also be taken to the next level with plush seats.

Dallas explains that the main screen will need to be completely gutted, as the furniture – installed back in the late 1990s – is now “uncomfortable to sit on and not bonnie”.

Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
All of the seats will be replaced, while the floor will be dark with splashes of orange to stay on brand. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.

There will be space for fewer folk, but a better experience for those who do visit.

The overall capacity will be reduced by about 100 seats across the venue to allow for more leg room between the rows.

How team will bring Belmont bar back to life

Perhaps one of the most impressive features of the refurbished cinema would be the basement bar – the redesign of which has been the most challenging, they admit.

Much like the rest of the listed building, the bar will be fully revamped to make the cinema “pop”.

Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
The bar’s walls will be painted in light colours to make the area brighter. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.

With more and more people opting to watch Netflix from home rather than go to the cinema, Dallas thinks they need to make a night at the pictures into a real experience – much like the successful Everyman chain operating elsewhere.

Having an attractive bar plays a pivotal part in achieving that.

Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
Should anyone want to use the corner as a stage, the curtains will slide in and create a backdrop. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.

It will be repainted and equipped with colourful seats, with a special “performance corner” which can be used for talks, discussions or even stand-up shows.

An illuminated drinks grid behind the bar will be a special feature to set the scene of the cinematic venue, decorated with posters of timeless classics.

Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
The arch features have been incorporated even in the bar backdrop. Details do matter, don’t they? Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.

Disused top floor to become training area for budding creatives

And while fans are enjoying the latest Marvel instalment in Screen 1, filmmakers will be upstairs honing their skills in the hope of one day producing their own masterpieces.

The top floor of the Belmont, which is currently lying disused, will be transformed into a machine for a new generation of Steven Spielbergs and Martin Scorseses.

It will be run by media organisation Shmu, who have been helping aspiring filmmakers in the north-east for more than 25 years.

Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
The top floor will become a mecca for aspiring filmmakers. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.

The education centre will become home to most of their programmes, aimed at giving those with a passion for film a place to experiment, learn and grow.

And they reckon this would also bring more people to the Belmont, with friends and family coming on a regular basis to watch their loved ones’ creations.

Shmu director Murray Dawson says this could make the Aberdeen venue “the place to be” when it comes to watching and making film.

Murray reckons they could be producing about 400 films per year at the Belmont. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

He has big ambitions…

Murray adds: “I don’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be a film studio in the north-east – great locations, loads of talent, why not?

“So let’s lobby, and use the Belmont and this new vision to get that and forge a pathway for passionate people to produce films.”

But what about all the money needed to make this happen?

But without the cash to bring these ideas to life, they could never make it off the manuscript.

That’s where Sarah enters the picture.

Listening to these glamorous plans for the Belmont, the fundraising director – appointed in February due to her vast expertise – exclaims: “It’s fabulous, isn’t it?”

Sarah Dingwall, head of income generation and business development at Aberdeen's Belmont Cinema, photographed outside the venue on Belmont Street.
Driven by her love for Belmont Cinema, Sarah Dingwall is determined to help get the project over the line. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

She can’t do it alone, though.. And the public’s support is now more important than ever to reach an initial target of £150,000.

The team is today officially launching their crowdfunder to gather the remainder of the needed cash to turn around the cinema.

Sarah says there are many ways people can “play their part” – whether that would be with a one-off or regular donations.

Would you help the team turn the forlorn Belmont Cinema around? Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

She adds: “We really hope that this will be an opportunity for get behind what will be their cinema.

“Now is the time to celebrate everyone’s generosity so far, but also to work to get the big gifts in and encourage everyone who loves the Belmont to do their part.”

Credits rolling…but it’s just the beginning!

The lights suddenly go up and the room becomes silent for a minute.

It’s the end of the presentation – but just the beginning of the team’s journey. They want to have it open again within a year.

Design images of how the Belmont Cinema could look like following an extensive revamp.
The Belmont could be fully transformed within the next 12 months. Image: Tinto Architecture/Supplied.

There is a lot of more work ahead of them, and they are all determined to see it through.

What is the End Game for these Aberdeen arts avengers?

Looking out to the empty screen, Jacob envisions a future where it’s packed with an enamoured audience back “in love” with cinema.

Jacob is certain that there is a bright future ahead of the Belmont. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

He adds: “We need to keep pumping our message to people and make sure they know that they are the ones to help us get this over the line with their support.

“And we are confident that they will – it means too much to just let it slip by.

“We’ve got a community behind us that we want to do proud. We might never get another opportunity like this so we need to get it right.”

The Belmont Cinema’s crowdfunding page is live from today, and anyone can contribute with as little or as much as they would like.

Anyone who wishes to support the campaign can do so HERE.

More options to donate can be found on the new Belmont Cinema website

Read more about revamp projects across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire: