Aberdeen MSP appeals over Belmont cinema sale

Aberdeen's Belmont cinema would have to be sold by Cineworld, the Commission ruled. Picture: Complimentary
Aberdeen's Belmont cinema would have to be sold by Cineworld, the Commission ruled. Picture: Complimentary
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ABERDEEN MSP Kevin Stewart has today written to the Competition Commission, calling on the watchdog to reconsider its decision to force Cineworld to sell off one of its two cinemas in Aberdeen.

Earlier this week the Commission announced that Cineworld would have to sell one of its picture houses in Aberdeen as well as cinemas in Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge to restore competition and protect customers’ interests following the company’s takeover of the Picturehouse chain .

Cineworld said it would “reluctantly” sell its Picturehouse cinema in Aberdeen, known as The Belmont, following the ruling.

But Mr Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, said today that he had written to Alasdair Smith, the Deputy Chairman of the Commission who chaired the inquiry into the acquisition of the Pitcurehouse chain, calling for him to reconsider the decision to force the sale of the Belmont.

Mr Stewart said: “I am extremely concerned that this ill informed decision by the Competition Commission could spell the end for the Belmont and the rich contribution it makes to the cultural scene in Aberdeen.”

He claimed: “The Belmont is not your run of the mill cinema. It delivers an entirely different repertoire from other cinemas in the city, and this art-house offering is what justifies the public subsidy it receives from Aberdeen City Council.

“The Belmont also hosts a number of worthwhile community facilities that are also being put at risk.”

He continued: “This difference appears to have been largely ignored by the commission, as is the fact that these cinemas cater for vastly different audiences and fundamentally undermines their decision to force the sale.

“If a buyer cannot be found then the Belmont may be forced to close. This decision should be halted immediately and lift the threat on this hugely valued cultural asset.”

Mr Smith said earlier this week: “The sale of one of the cinemas in Aberdeen, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge to a competing cinema operator will restore competition in these areas and protect customers’ interests.

“Cineworld will have the choice of selling any one of the cinemas it owns in the three areas. If it chooses to sell any of the Picturehouse cinemas, we are confident that a new owner will wish to build on their existing strengths.”