Fort Kinnaird multiplex cinema given green light

Cinema wars. Montage: Dave Hamburgh
Cinema wars. Montage: Dave Hamburgh
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CINEMA wars are set to sweep the city, with screen bosses vying to be top of the billing after plans for a huge new multiplex at Fort Kinnaird were given the green light.

Councillors approved the proposed seven-screen theatre against officials’ advice and despite fears Edinburgh’s largest retail park would draw customers away from the high street and the city’s satellite shopping centres.

The 1200-seat complex – to be run by Odeon on the site of the cinema demolished in 2008 – is forecast to attract 46,000 customers per year and draw 90 per cent of its trade from competitors across the Capital.

The city currently boasts 59 cinema screens, and business experts claimed Edinburgh’s big-screen saturation could lead to bargains as rivals battle it out to boost their market share.

Graham Birse, of Edinburgh Napier’s Business School, said: “Most of the cinemas are national chains with a fairly fixed pricing structure.

“But I would imagine this might lead to more special offers being advertised.

“I don’t think there’s a downside from a consumer point of view. There could be great offers on greater types of film, so it could be good for customers and good for performing arts.”

But he warned enriching Fort Kinnaird with a multiplex would have an impact on rival retail parks such as Ocean Terminal and Cameron Toll – and could also affect the recession-hit city centre.

“This is democracy but that can come with a cost,” said Mr Birse. “Competition is no bad thing but there’s only so many multiplexes to go around.”

Three objections against the cinema bid were raised by Ocean Terminal, Cameron Toll and the Omni Centre.

And following the shock decision to approve the new mutliplex Robin Holder, a planning consultant for Ocean Terminal, said: “what’s good for Fort Kinnaird will be bad for other centres in Edinburgh”.

“The key issue for Ocean Terminal is that the cinema there provides an anchor role, and a reduction in visitors will affect all the nearby businesses.

“There is a fragile balance of retailing centres in Edinburgh with planning policies in place to protect that. Fort Kinnaird is the largest retail park in Scotland and has a very significant impact on its surroundings.

“Some of these centres are in key regeneration areas such as Leith, Wester Hailes and the city centre itself. Trade in these areas will be displaced, inevitably leading to the loss of jobs. Even the applicants agreed that 90 per cent of the cinema’s trade would be displaced from other venues. There will be no net benefit to the city.”

And Mr Holder said plans by Fort Kinnaird to submit a major application for a Debenhams store as part of a mutli-million pound revamp of the retail park presented “an additional threat to Ocean Terminal and the city centre”.

“Fort Kinnaird will in effect become a “one-stop shop”, and reduce the need for people to visit a variety of locations to meet their shopping and leisure needs,” he said.

City planning chief Councillor Ian Perry said the committee did not feel the commercial impact on rival retail centres – or cinemas – would be “significant” enough to refuse the application.

Fort Kinnaird declined to comment.