Hollywood came to Peterhead last night as the town’s new silver screen was officially opened at a glittering ceremony worthy of its red carpet guest.
The town’s own award-winning film director Jon S Baird opened the five-screen Arc Cinema ahead of it opening to the public from today.
And in fitting style, Mr Baird’s Scottish Bafta award-winning 2018 film Stan and Ollie was the first screening to be enjoyed by invited guests – with staff donning their bowler hats for the occasion in honour of the subjects.
Mr Baird, 47, flew up from his home in Surrey for the opening.
He said the 422-seat cinema in Marishcal Street is now unrecognisable compared to its days as the Gala Bingo hall following an ambitious £2 million revamp.
He said: “I’m so impressed with the cinema. They have done an incredible job. It really is state-of-the-art and compares with any cinema I’ve been at in London.
“I’m hoping this will be a huge magnet for the economy in Peterhead. I’m confident it will be well received for sure, there’s been a real positive buzz about it on social media and I think people will still come – despite Covid.
“This really is something for Peterhead to be proud of and could be the resurgence the town needs.
“My mum and dad went on their first date in the Regal Cinema that was previously on this site in the 1950s so it’s extra special to be back here.”
The cinema was due to open last Christmas but was delayed until March, and again once the coronavirus pandemic hit. From today, though, it will be showing the latest films as well as broadcasts of opera, ballet and theatrical productions.
Local woman Laura Daramola, who is managing the facility alongside her 15 staff, said: “This cinema has been a while in the making but now it is finally here we know people are going to love the quality, comfort and service on offer.
“There will be special measures in place because of the Covid-19 restrictions to ensure the safety of all our visitors and staff but we are certain that they won’t detract from the overall experience.”
Vacant since January 2018, the building has been gutted and the old theatre space removed to allow for new second storey and lift.
The works, by Irish company Melcorpo Commercial Properties, were assisted by a £200,000 grant from Aberdeenshire Council’s property investment fund.
Buchan Area Committee chairman Norman Smith added: “From the first tentative mention that a cinema might be coming back in March 2019, the Peterhead community was excited by the prospect of a cinema returning to the town centre.
“This will help to develop the town’s night-time and weekend economies.”
Screenings, all of which are wheelchair-accessible, are bookable now on the Arc Cinema website.