Movie fans in the far north have been assured that plans for a major expansion of Thurso Cinema remain firmly on track despite the pandemic.
The makeover of the only Scottish outlet in the Merlin Cinemas chain had been due to be unveiled early last year.
But the combined impact of Covid-19 and Brexit knocked the schedule off course with the outlet, like its counterparts elsewhere, being out of commission during lockdowns.
It is now gearing up to re-open the two-screen cinema, restaurant and bar on a limited basis on May 17 as restrictions ease.
But bosses of the Cornish-based firm are also ready to complete the final stage of the commissioning of three new screens at the Ormlie Road venue.
Spokesman Alex Jones yesterday said the new seating and screens, together with air conditioning, were installed early last year.
He said: “Our schedule to complete the rest of the works has obviously been badly hit as, with Thurso being somewhat remote, we’ve been unable to send teams up because of restrictions on travel and hotels being closed.
“We have also had projection and audio equipment from mainland Europe affected by factories being closed and problems caused by Brexit have added further delays.
Mr Jones said its decision to install a high spec air conditioning system has proved propitious.
He said: “In standard systems, there’s a certain degree of re-circulating old air but ours has a purifier which means new air is coming in all the time.
“It cost more than £100,000 but it was as if we had foreseen what was to come and it is certainly going to prove its worth in the wake of the pandemic.”
The expansion will create a further 112 seats at the site of the former ten-pin bowling alley.
Mr Jones said staff are in the throes of preparing the venue to re-open on May 17
Because of social distance requirements, it will only be able to commission about 40 of the 200 seats in the main cinema while the smaller screen would remain closed.
Mr Jones said: “It looks like England is lifting restictions earlier than Scotland but we are, like everyone else, waiting on a daily basis for updates and guidance.”
Mr Jones said it is unlikely the new-look complex would be open before the end of the summer.