Whenever I talk to someone about how things are going with the plans to reopen Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema, my response inevitably begins to sound like the plot of a Hollywood movie.
Specifically, one of those classic underdog stories where a group of people overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve the impossible. Think Rocky, Cool Runnings, Erin Brockovich, Legally Blonde, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, or 2022’s Save the Cinema, based on the real-life story of a Welsh cinema rescued by its community.
The majority of films follow the traditional three-act structure, and the journey of the Save The Belmont Cinema campaign is no different.
Act One: The inciting incident – AKA A Nightmare on Belmont Street
Picture the scene. You are at work, and your phone starts going crazy with the constant ping of notifications. You discover that the operators of the Belmont have gone into administration, and the cinema has closed with immediate effect.
The place that you had once worked at for 13 years, that had helped nurture your love of cinema which led to your side hustle of reviewing and writing about film, was suddenly gone.
It was devastating news, and you were not alone in feeling that loss. The staff, customers and wider community were all affected by the closure.
Within minutes, a Facebook group was formed, followed by a public meeting at Krakatoa a couple of days later. By the end of the meeting, it was clear that the film-loving community of Aberdeen would not accept this turn of events, and would fight to reopen the cinema.
So, you have your cause, you have your goal. Now, you need your team. Similar to films like Ocean’s Eleven and Seven Samurai, you need to recruit the people who will help you achieve that goal.
The trustees and advisors to the charity selected as the chosen ones to restore the Belmont to not only its past but new-and-improved glory include former staff, customers, and experienced members of the local business and charity communities.
As for me, I guess in movie terms I would be the grizzled former manager and projectionist who is getting too old for this kind of thing. Coaxed out of retirement for one last job!
The common thread that binds us is our love for the Belmont.
It has been 17 months since the cinema’s doors closed, and we have worked tirelessly during that time – meeting every couple of weeks like the Council of Elrond, which makes us, in a way, like the Fellowship of the Ring,
Those movies proved that there is no hero’s journey without sacrifice. There will be many obstacles to overcome. That’s life. It will test the will and nerve of us all, but it will not defeat us; merely allow us to enter the final act.
Cutting through the Aberdoom and gloom
Every week, you pick up the paper or go online and see news of another great local establishment, like Olive Alexanders, closing its doors, or of Marks and Spencer’s plans to move out of St Nicholas Street in favour of Union Square.
It would be easy to become disheartened, but not when you are surrounded by the team that we have. I have often been a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to working, but I have been constantly inspired and enthused by the Save The Belmont team’s passion and commitment to giving Aberdeen the truly independent cinema it needs and deserves.
Our plans have taken huge steps forward already this year
This is the point where, in a movie, someone would stand up and deliver an inspirational speech or quote Dylan Thomas. “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Success in reopening the Belmont could cut through the Aberdoom and gloom, be an inspiration to others and help kickstart the rejuvenation of the city centre.
Time for a montage
Our plans have taken huge steps forward already this year. We have appointed architects to work on the refurbishment, and employed a head of income generation to spearhead the fundraising that will allow us to achieve our vision.
With lots of things happening, now would be the perfect moment for a montage. Everybody loves a montage. Even Rocky had a montage!
So, when – not if – the Belmont reopens its doors, my mind might daydream to the idea of someone making an underdog movie about our story. It could have a touch of Hollywood glamour mixed with the social commentary of something like The Full Monty. (Although one can hope the campaign does not have to resort to me taking my clothes off at the final fundraiser…)
Who would play me in the adaptation? A rugged, good-looking Scot in his mid-40s? It’s got to be James McAvoy, right? He could even get his Filth director, the north-east’s own Jon S Baird, to helm the film.
The end credits have not rolled on the Belmont yet – far from it. This is merely an intermission. After all, the Belmont Cinema, and Aberdeen, deserves a Hollywood ending.
Dallas King is a film critic, writer and podcaster from Aberdeen, and part of Belmont Community Cinema