Mike Blair gives giant screen to village cinema

From left, Rhona, Donald and Mhairi Smith, 11, eight and six, and Alistair and Cameron Sproul, four and five, show their appreciation for the new screen. Picture: Jane Barlow
From left, Rhona, Donald and Mhairi Smith, 11, eight and six, and Alistair and Cameron Sproul, four and five, show their appreciation for the new screen. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A CINEMA which shows hit films for free is expanding after a Scottish international rugby star bought it a giant new screen.

Scrum-half Mike Blair was so impressed with the community spirit that has blossomed through the Balerno Village Screen group that he has given organisers the four metre-wide piece of equipment.

The gesture is the latest boost for the BVS – a community cinema funded solely by donations – after it won a council grant.

Blair, the only Scot to ever be nominated for the IRB International Rugby Player of the Year award, made the donation despite being based in southern France playing for rugby club Brive.

He said: “There is a fantastic community atmosphere happening in Balerno. I’m in France just now so have not managed to get along to Balerno Village Screen, but I was keen to help them out.

“Hopefully the screen will allow them to reach even greater audiences.”

The not-for-profit cinema launched in December last year is run by volunteers and shows monthly films free of charge at the Ogston Hall.

The second screen, worth more than £1000, will be set up in St Joseph’s Hall next to Balerno Parish Church.

Secretary Iain Smith said the donation was not the limit of Blair’s generosity in Balerno, with the highest-capped international scrum-half in Scottish rugby history also giving up his time to train local rugby ­players.

Mr Smith said: “The dream, provided we can get the appropriate licences, is to screen a movie outside.”

Such has been the cinema’s success that it received a special mention in the Scottish Parliament earlier this month.

A £3000 grant from the city council has also gone towards projection equipment and will fund film production and animation work with children.

Other gestures have included a one-day donation of an Aston Martin and red carpet to tie in with a screening of James Bond epic Skyfall last month.

A screening of Oscar Best Picture winner Argo on April 6 is the cinema’s next event.