Directors and top actor join fight to save Cameo cinema

ACCLAIMED film directors Ken Loach and Richard Jobson have backed a campaign to save Edinburgh's oldest cinema from being converted into a huge pub.

Both directors have staunchly defended the Cameo's importance to the Capital, with Jobson claiming the 91-year-old cinema is as culturally significant as Edinburgh Castle.

Actor Kevin McKidd, star of Trainspotting and current BBC series Rome, said the cinema had inspired him to become an actor and has called on cinema bosses to think again.

City Screen, which owns the Cameo, is in negotiations to sell the historic venue - described by film director Quentin Tarantino as his favourite cinema in the world - but have also submitted a planning application to rip out more than half its seats so a bar can be installed in the Tollcross cinema.

Under the proposals the main auditorium would be converted into a bar, the existing bar would be turned into a 31-seat third auditorium and the two smaller screens would remain in place.

Jobson, whose latest film A Woman in Winter was partly filmed in the Cameo, described the proposed sale and changes as an "absolute tragedy".

He said: "The Cameo is a definite highlight in Edinburgh life and to lose the big screen would be a massive blow for the city and the film industry.

"It's a cinema that's played a massive part of my life, from hanging around there when I was playing in The Skids to later when I've premiered my films there.

"I'm just angry that they want to take away something that's as culturally significant a landmark as Edinburgh Castle.

"It's hard to put your finger on it but every time you are in the Cameo you feel like you're in a real cinema and it has that certain something that no other cinema, certainly in Edinburgh, has."

Ken Loach, director of Sweet Sixteen and Ae Fond Kiss, has been a long-time supporter of the Cameo.

He said: "If this goes ahead then it will be a sad day for the city of Edinburgh and the film world because the Cameo is a wonderful cinema and it would be a shadow of its former self with just the small screens."

One of Jobson's biggest films, 16 Years of Alcohol, was premiered at the Cameo and its star McKidd said: "We've got to try and stop this happening because it would be a huge loss to Edinburgh and Scottish cinema.

"I can remember going there when I was younger and it was the place I made my mind up to be an actor so I have a personal attachment to the place, as I'm sure thousands of other people do."

The Cameo, which was built in 1914, has been run as an arthouse cinema since 1949, when it was bought by Jim Poole - who sold it in the early 1980s.

Edinburgh-based Film producer Jason Hall, a former Evening News film reviewer, described the plans as a "complete disaster".

He said: "We need to do something about this and hopefully people from all over the city will fight this.

"The public have demonstrated that there is a desire for independent cinema in Edinburgh and getting rid of the big screen will take the heart out of the Cameo."

A spokesman for the Cameo confirmed the cinema was in talks with potential buyers but refused to comment on any further aspect of the sale or proposed changes to the building.

Should the Cameo's big screen be preserved?

Rachel Rennie, 28, account manager, Broughton Road: "It would be really sad if the Cameo was to change because it's an Edinburgh institution and it's one of the only cinemas around that will show independent films. What I can't fathom is they've just refurbished and expanded the bar, so why have they just decided to do this?"

Christopher Fentiman, 70, retired driving instructor, Polwarth Gardens: "There's already too many pubs in that area of town so they don't need another one. The Cameo has a special part to play in the Tollcross community and it would be sad to see it changed. They play the sort of films you can't get anywhere else and that should be preserved."

Iain Martin, 29, computer programmer, West Port: "It would be a real shame if it was to change because they cater for a market that's really taken off in the last few years. I know a lot of people who are fond of the place and they wouldn't want it to lose the big screen."


THE CAMEO was originally opened as the King's Cinema in 1914 and has played host to hundreds of stars from the big screen - ranging from Cary Grant in the 1950s to Robert Carlyle in the 1990s.

Quentin Tarantino visited the Tollcross cinema for the opening of Pulp Fiction, starring John Travolta and Bruce Willis, when it was the showpiece of the 1994 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

In 1996, Trainspotting debuted at the Cameo. Author Irvine Welsh infamously quizzed the audience after to see what they thought of it.

In 2002, the Cameo bagged the UK premiere of Oscar winner Denzel Washington's directorial debut, Antwone Fisher, and in the same year Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen also had its premiere there.

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