Small filmhouses in the north and north-east are among the last few cinemas left open across the entire UK – and they are determined to find ways to keep the doors open and draw in customers.
Bosses at the Merlin Cinema in Thurso, the northernmost on the mainland, believe there are fewer than a dozen such venues open in all of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
That number also includes the newly opened cinema in Peterhead along with others in Fort William, Oban and at Eden Court in Inverness.
The confirmation that they plan to remain open has come as good news for film fans in those areas, and comes after larger chains such as Vue and Cineworld decided to shut up shop while the nation continues to battle the pandemic.
Cinemas have been forced shut in England, Northern Ireland and Wales under new lockdown regimes.
But continued postponement of Hollywood blockbusters has played a big part in the closures in Scotland, with major producers holding back on hotly anticipated releases such as the new James Bond film until they are once again able to pack out multiplexes.
The latest of a series of hard blows for the industry came yesterday with Disney’s decision to postpone big-budget Agatha Christie adaptation Death On The Nile and Free Guy, which were scheduled to hit the big screen in December.
The cinemas staying open across the north and north-east yesterday told the Press and Journal about how they plan to succeed in the increasingly tough environment.
Last night, the Arc Cinema in Peterhead hosted a special screening of Schemers – the first feature film to be made in Dundee – with the stars turning up for the event.
Cast members Conor Berry, Sean Connor and Grant R Keelan were all on hand as the venue sent out the message that it was still very much open for business.
Brian Gilligan, director of Arc Cinema’s parent company Melcorpo, said they still have a “a good range of products” even without Hollywood’s new releases at the moment.
He said: “We are planning on showing a wide range of films – we’ve had some classic titles and some seasonal titles, some of the screens which have been sold out.
“This allows our customers to see films that otherwise they wouldn’t have seen on the big screen.
“Our plan is to also put on a lot of Scottish titles, which will have a great local interest, along with all-time favourites.”
Craig May, one of the directors of the cinema in Thurso, said alternatives to films such as opera and live theatre were proving popular with far north audiences.
Bosses of Highland Cinema in Fort William said they were planning to expand by holding special screenings for school parties, and offering private showings for other groups.
General manager of the Phoenix Cinema in Oban, Jennie Larney, said the venue would screen classics and stage events such as a French film festival.
She added: “The films that we’ve lost are only the big studio films. There are 700 films made in the UK this year and there are even more made last year, so there are still plenty of films kicking about that people can come and enjoy.”