He's the reel deal – restaurant and pub tycoon plots expansion into movie business

ONE of Scotland's leading pub, restaurant and hotel chains is planning to expand into the movie business.

The G1 Group has unveiled proposals to launch a host of new cinema ventures.

The Glasgow-based company – run by tycoon Stefan King – already operates two such ventures and wants to create cinemas in brand-new developments, bring old cinema buildings back to life and take over existing cinemas around the country.

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The firm, which has more than 40 venues in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Perth, will feature the latest digital technology and cinematic innovations.

The ambitious strategy raises the prospect of a new future for derelict cinemas.

A huge campaign was mounted several years ago when the G1 Group was said to be on the verge of buying Edinburgh's historic Cameo cinema and was planning to turn its main auditorium into a bar-restaurant.

The G1 Group is hiring a "cinema development manager" in the wake of its successful transformation of the historic Grosvenor picture house in Glasgow's West End into a modern bar-restaurant complex, which still boasts two cinema screens.

The G1 Group snapped up Perth's long-running Playhouse cinema last year, and also owns a former cinema in Shawlands, in Glasgow's south side.

Recruitment adverts say the job will involve all aspects of cinema programming and kiosk sales for its existing sites and cinema development projects, and will cover all other potential cinemas sites that may become available to the company.

The successful candidate will "advise on updates in technology and the latest innovations to ensure G1 is at the forefront of providing an outstanding cinema experience to our customers".

Angus Lawrie, G1's marketing director, insisted the company did not have any definite expansion plans for its cinema operations, but admitted the sector had been identified as having major potential for the future.

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"The Grosvenor has been extremely successful since it was reopened and the Playhouse in Perth has also been doing very well since we took it over around a year ago," he said.

"We do think people are looking for something a bit different these days when they go out."

Cinema expert Mark Cousins, a former director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, said: "It is really important for Scotland to have a range of independent owners of its movie screens.

"The real danger is when all cinemas in the one place fall into the same hands.

"If another major chain emerges out of this, and it has independence of programming, then I think it'll be very good news."

How one man's vision is a real-life horror film for cinema aficionados

THE G1 Group made its first foray into the world of cinema when it bought the Grosvenor in Glasgow's Ashton Lane in 2001, unveiling the results of a full-scale revamp two years later to a mixed response from film aficionados in the city.

Supporters of the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh successfully blocked attempts by G1 to buy the picture house in 2005 after its owners City Screen took it off the market.

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It was not until last year that G1 made its next move, taking over the Perth Playhouse, although G1 has yet to press ahead with plans to convert its main screen hall into a restaurant.

The company has confirmed it could reopen the former Elephant Cinema, in Shawlands, Glasgow, which dates back to 1927 and has not hosted screenings since 1960. Part of the site was previously operated as The Cell nightclub by G1.

Cinema historians say the firm is likely to be considering existing cinemas across the Scotland, including the Belmont in Aberdeen, also run by City Screen, the Studio Cinema in Dunoon, and the Caledonian Cinema, in Elgin, run by the same firm that sold the Playhouse to G1. Another likely contender is likely to be the former Odeon cinema, in South Clerk Street, Edinburgh, which was closed down by the chain in 2003.