Licence to fill a seat

IT is a piece of movie memorabilia with a definite link to one of the world’s biggest film stars - and it could be yours for just £15.

A cinema seat used by Edinburgh-born screen legend Sir Sean Connery on a visit to the Capital is set to be snapped up by one lucky fan as part of a sale at the Filmhouse.

Movie buffs are being offered the chance to buy the seat and others used by screen stars such as Ewan McGregor and director Martin Scorsese.

The arthouse cinema in Lothian Road is selling the 20-year-old seats as part of a major revamp of Cinema One.

Dozens of stars and film-makers have watched screenings from the old red seats. Two of the seats have been identified as ones used by famous visitors, the James Bond star’s seat - number 150 - and one used by John Cleese.

Both Sir Sean and Mr Cleese sponsored their cinema seats. The Monty Python star’s seat even has a plaque inscribed "John Cleese for Alastair Sim" dedicated to the genius comic actor who starred in British classics such as the St Trinian’s films.

Filmhouse director Ken Ingles said: "The seats hold a lot of fond memories for a lot of people. This is an emotional gesture for the audience. It is not about the money."

Other seats have plaques dedicated from and to famous names, but many of the stars who visited chose to sit in other spots, leaving staff unsure exactly which seats many of them used, said Mr Ingles. Twentieth Century Fox even dedicated a seat to the late Grace Kelly.

The cinema has been a regular venue for Edinburgh’s International Film Festival since opening in 1979. It has hosted dozens of premieres and events.

Actor Kenneth Branagh, Blur’s Damon Albarn and Robbie Coltrane have also all been seated in Cinema One.

The Filmhouse is replacing the old seats with around 300 modern French-made seats in a 60,000 revamp of Cinema One.

Mr Ingles said the cinema would like to have sold off all 250 seats but, due to storage problems, it anticipates it will only be able to keep around 40 for prospective buyers - the Filmhouse only has limited space to store the seats until buyers pick them up.

Mr Ingles said: "It would be nice to see them all sell. The remainder will be thrown out." He said inviting stars and film-makers was a big part of The Filmhouse’s business. "We are a key cinema in Edinburgh for mounting special events with film-makers. It is a valuable part of what we do - acting as an interface between Edinburgh and film-makers."

Mr Connery was a regular at the International Film Festival, and was joined by Michael Caine in 1997. He also attended the opening of the Film Festival in 1999, where there was a private viewing of All About My Mother.

Ewan McGregor appeared for the premiere of his film Nora in 2000, and Mr Ingles said Martin Scorsese, legendary director of Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, also visited Cinema One in 1987 .

Leading French company Quniette has supplied the new seats, and Mr Ingles said: "They are arguably the best in Europe and certainly the most popular in Europe."

A new print of the Hollywood classic, High Society, starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly will adorn the walls when the revamped Filmhouse reopens on June 8.

Cinema One will be closed from May 31 to June 7 for the extensive refurbishment. The seats will be sold off on a first come, first served basis.