Urgent appeal as Scotland's ‘Screen Machine’ service faces the end of the road
It has been bringing the magic of the movies to the Highlands and islands for a quarter of a century.
But now a much-loved mobile cinema service is facing the end of the road without intervention from the Scottish Government.
An urgent appeal to secure the future of the Screen Machine has been launched to coincide with its 25th anniversary this month amid fears it may only be able to run until the spring.
Regional Screen Scotland, the publicly-funded body which runs the Screen Machine, has revealed it needs to find £1.4 million for a new 80-seater cinema. And it is urging supporters to ask the Government to meet half the cost of the replacement for a Screen Machine that had to be retired after 17 years due to increasing unreliability and growing numbers of cancelled screenings.
Regional Screen Scotland, which wants MPs and MSPs to back its campaign, secured £176,641 from Government agency Screen Scotland for a loan of a mobile cinema unit from France to ensure screenings went ahead this year,
With Screen Scotland insisting it cannot fund another hire when the lease expires in April, there are warnings the service will have to be “wound down” without the prospect of a permanent replacement.
An official appeal page on the Screen Machine website states: “This September, the Screen Machine service will mark its 25th anniversary. Whilst this is a cause for celebration, there is reason for concern.
"We urgently require significant investment to enable us to commission the construction of a brand new and greener Screen Machine.
“A new Screen Machine will cost approx £1.4m and need between a year and 18 months to build. We need the Scottish Government to provide 50 per cent of the cost. That will enable us to pay a deposit and begin the construction process. We will then embark on a massive fundraising effort to bring in the balance.”
Regional Screen Scotland Harriet Warman development co-ordinator said: “We need the public’s help to write to the First Minister or their local MSP, asking for Scottish Government funding to commission a new, more sustainable Screen Machine, so we can continue to provide this important service.”
A spokeswoman for Screen Scotland said: ““The Screen Machine is invaluable for remote and rural communities across Scotland. It provides the opportunity for audiences of all ages to access the latest releases and independent films.
“Screen Scotland majority funded the replacement of the truck that pulls the Screen Machine in 2021 and have covered the cost of a lease for a temporary replacement cinema facility for 12 months to ensure continuity of service until April 2024.
“We continue to provide support to regional Screen Scotland through our regular funding programme and are working with them to help secure the future of the service.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government values the importance of our cultural organisations and their contribution to the wellbeing of the country to promote the arts, provide employment and engage with communities across Scotland.
“We are working closely with the culture sector to do everything within our powers and resources to help those most affected by the current economic challenges and will continue to urge the UK Government to ensure sufficient support is made available for Scotland’s culture sector.”
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