B-listing will act to protect Cameo

EDINBURGH'S historic Cameo cinema is to receive more protection from future development after being granted B-listed status by heritage chiefs.

Historic Scotland has agreed to the move following a campaign by the Cinema Theatre Association, which was launched after the building was put up for sale.

It emerged last year that the tenement building housing the Cameo had C-listing status - the lowest possible rating - and that the cinema's interior was unprotected.

The cinema was recently taken off the market by its London-based owner, which has pledged to carry out modest refurbishments without altering the much-loved main auditorium.

A fundraising campaign aimed at helping to pay for the overhaul is due to be launched at a special event in the Cameo next week. Supporters of the long-running cinema are to be asked to contribute 500 each towards a revamp of the second screen, toilets and foyer.

It is hoped local businesses and film enthusiasts will embrace the "Cameo 500" initiative.

The Evening News revealed last month that the threat of closure had been lifted from the Tollcross landmark after the sell-off plans were shelved.

City Screen, the owner of the Cameo, has insisted it is committed to its future, less than a year after submitting plans to turn the main auditorium into a bar-restaurant.

The firm was forced to shelve its scheme in the wake of fierce opposition from locals and cinema-lovers across the Capital.

Film directors Ken Loach and Richard Jobson were among the high-profile industry figures who backed a Save the Cameo campaign, along with Trainspotting stars Kevin McKidd and Ewen Bremner.

The Cameo is one of the main cinemas used during the ongoing Edinburgh International Film Festival, which is already without a flagship venue for gala premieres since the closure of the Odeon on South Clerk Street, several years ago.

The Cinema Theatre Association had urged Historic Scotland to intervene when it emerged the Cameo was being put on the open market.

The campaigning organisation said the cinema was "effectively unprotected".

Now Historic Scotland has agreed to raise the entire listing of the tenement block to grade-B level, meaning that the agency would have to have approval over any major redevelopment plans. Historic Scotland is also able to recommend the Scottish Executive "call-in" a contentious planning application.

Gordon Barr, spokesman for the Cinema Theatre Association in Scotland, said: "The upgrading of the Cameo on this basis is therefore an important precedent, and highlights Historic Scotland's progressive stance on this topic.

"We're delighted Historic Scotland has agreed that the Cameo was significant enough in itself to raise the listing level of the entire tenement to Grade B.

"The Cameo is one of only two cinemas in Scotland from this period still operating and the only one with its original interior decoration intact.

"It would have been a terrible loss if this excellent cinema interior had been callously destroyed."

Ian Hoey, general manager of the Cameo, said: "It is great news that the cinema's listing has been upgraded.

"It does mean that Historic Scotland will be heavily involved in any new plans for the building, and will mean that the main auditorium will be protected in future."