Exclusive:Bid to bring Edinburgh’s Filmhouse on Lothian Road back from the dead secures huge public funding boost
A bid to bring Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema back from the dead has been given a huge boost after securing nearly £300,000 in public funding.
The Scottish Government’s screen agency has agreed to support efforts to revive the former church building on Lothian Road.
The £299,000 grant has been hailed as a “significant milestone” for a campaign launched in September to try to raise £1.25 million from various funding sources by the end of February, when it is hoped that the city council will also have agreed to fund the planned rebirth of the Filmhouse.
More than £500,000 has now been raised for a planned refurbishment and restoration of the Filmhouse, which would allow the building to reopen as an independent cinema next year.
Screen Scotland, which is supporting the planning and development of the Filmhouse revival, has described the venue as “the iconic centre of cinema culture in Edinburgh”.
The charity pursuing the project has committed to revive the Lothian Road building as “an independent cinema venue celebrating the diversity of filmmaking worldwide”, but also ensure that a revived Filmhouse "can better attract new audiences”.
More than 1,900 supporters have backed a public crowdfunder, while actors like Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall, Brian Cox, Greg McHugh, Alan Cumming, Jack Lowden, Sanjeev Kohli, Kate Dickie and Ewen Bremner have recorded video messages to help publicise the wider campaign.
A short film about the closure of the Filmhouse and the campaign to bring it back to life has also been made by the Edinburgh-based director Perry J. O’Halloran.
Screen Scotland’s funding has been confirmed just over a year after the Filmhouse was suddenly shut when its operator went into administration.
It was later sold to hospitality firm Caledonian Heritable, which has since been in talks with a group of former staff who have set up a new charity to try to get the Filmhouse back up and running again.
It is hoped the company, which agreed a six-month lease with the charity to allow it to run a fundraising campaign, will agree a long-term lease in March.
That lease would allow the Filmhouse to reopen in the summer, in time for the return of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
If the campaign is successful, the new charity, Filmhouse (Edinburgh) Ltd, would run both the capital cinema and its revived cafe-bar.
The charity has been formed by Ginnie Atkinson, former chief executive of the Filmhouse, former programme manager James Rice, former head of programming Rod White, former head of technical David Boyd and financial consultant Mike Davidson.
Ms Atkinson said: “We have been deeply moved by the huge groundswell of support shown by supporters from Edinburgh and around the world. The strength of feeling is clear – Edinburgh needs a world-class cinematheque.
"Screen Scotland’s support represents a significant commitment to and endorsement of our plans, and another huge step in realising the dream of reopening Filmhouse.”
Isabel Davis, executive director at Screen Scotland, said: “Filmhouse is the iconic centre of cinema culture in Edinburgh, providing a uniquely diverse cinema programme, which celebrates film from around the world and from its rich history.
"Screen Scotland is supporting the return of this vital venue and organisation, one which provides a nurturing home for myriad film festivals, a hub for film education, a home to a community of film lovers and filmmakers, and an important cultural resource for the cinema-going public.
"Screen Scotland is proud to assist with the hoped for revival of this cinematic haven. Its return would signify not just the reopening of a cinema, but the return of a vital home for the artform.”
City council culture convener Val Walker said: “We’re delighted to see the fundraising campaign is going well and, alongside the stakeholder group, look forward to our continued dialogue and working with Filmhouse (Edinburgh) Ltd.
“Whilst we remain supportive of Filmhouse (Edinburgh) Ltd and their objectives, any potential financial contribution would have to be approved by elected members through the normal budget process.”
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