Filmhouse may move to Fountainbridge brewery site

The Filmhouse in Lothian Road. Picture: Jon Savage
The Filmhouse in Lothian Road. Picture: Jon Savage
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THE home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival could move to a former brewery site.

An 8.2 acre area at Fountainbridge – once home to the McEwan’s brewing empire – is in line for an extensive regeneration project.

And a new building for the Filmhouse could form part of the proposed masterplan.

The Lothian Road institution has played host to dozens of red carpet events since it opened in 1979, with Russell Crowe the most recent celebrity to visit for a premiere of his new blockbuster Noah last month.

Artist’s impressions of the currently derelict site north of the Union Canal show plans to transform it into a “new neighbourhood” of homes, offices, hotels and cafes.

An alternative new home for the Filmhouse is also being explored in the city centre – behind the National Museum of Scotland and the Festival Theatre.

But the Fountainbridge site could be built on within the next few years, and developer EDI Group is hopeful that planning permission in principle can be secured later this year.

Plans for a new arthouse complex have emerged almost a decade after proposals were revealed for a £20 million complex on Festival Square, next to the existing Filmhouse, which failed to win the backing of the city council.

The Centre for the Moving Image (CMI), which runs both the Filmhouse and the Film Festival, has launched a poll to gauge support for a move to one of the two sites.

The CMI has said that a key focus of its plans will be to ensure that “a re-imagined Filmhouse is fully accessible and is able to provide all our customers and audiences with the highest quality experience.”

It is understood the existing site on Lothian Road will be difficult to overhaul in future.

However, there is a dilemma over whether to uproot the Filmhouse from its home at the heart of the culture quarter, which also includes the Royal Lyceum and Traverse theatres and the Usher Hall.

CMI chief executive Ken Hay said: “We know a large number of people in Edinburgh hold the existing Filmhouse in very high regard. But it is a B-listed Victorian church building, which means we are very restricted on what we can do with it. There are obviously limited sites coming up for development in Edinburgh and we wanted to look at options around ten minutes’ walk from the existing Filmhouse.

“But we realise there are obviously implications about moving to a new site.”

The canalside site is already earmarked for a new arts complex. The Heritage Lottery Fund last week approved £5 million for the transformation of a former rubber factory into a new base for the Edinburgh Printmakers organisation, which will boast two galleries, a cafe-bar and terrace, artists’ studios, office space and a shop. Sarah Price, chief executive of the Edinburgh Printmakers, said: “The more cultural organisations and facilities that are based in the area the better.”

Richard Lewis, culture leader at Edinburgh City Council, said: “The plan we are consulting on at the moment for Fountainbridge includes a whole cultural triangle and we would be keen to support any ventures which help us realise that vision.”