Take a virtual journey through the new £50m Edinburgh 'film temple'

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A fly-through video offering a virtual journey through a planned new £50m "film temple" in the heart of Edinburgh's culture quarter has been unveiled.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Filmhouse cinema have launched the promotional film to promote the vision for the 11-storey development they hope will be open by 2025.

Envisaged as "a 21st century temple for film" by chief executive Ken Hay, the project would end a 30-search for a new home for the Filmhouse, increasing the number of screens from three to six and doubling its overall seating capacity to 900.

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All the cinema screens would be created beneath Festival Square under a deal struck with the city council to redevelop the publicly-owned site, which was originally created in the mid-1980s along with the city's new financial district.

The Usher Hall looks onto the square earmarked for the film complex, which also backs onto the rear of the five-star Sheraton Grand Hotel.

An official consultation on the development, which has been designed by award-winning Edinburgh architect Richard Murphy, was launched today.

The eight storeys to be built above ground would include a bar and event space with a retractable roof, a restaurant with an outdoor terrace overlooking Edinburgh Castle, a year-round Festival Centre for the EIFF and other film events in the city, and a creative industries hub.

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However the new "film temple" would be taller than both the Sheraton Grand Hotel, which opened in 1985, and the Usher Hall, which dates back to 1914.

Festival Square would become home to new 50m home for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Filmhouse.Festival Square would become home to new 50m home for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Filmhouse.
Festival Square would become home to new 50m home for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Filmhouse. | other

However council leaders hailed the prospect of "a new home for cinema in Edinburgh" as an exciting new chapter for the city's cultural landscape.

Last year the council revealed aspirations for Lothian Road to be transformed into a new tree-lined "boulevard" under plans to hand over more space to pedestrians and cyclists.

Key Hay, chief executive of the Filmhouse and film festival, said he hoped fundraising would be up and running by this time next year if planning permission could be secured, with the aim of work getting underway in 2023 and the building opening in 2025.

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Partly inspired by the Eye Film Museum, in Amsterdam, Edinburgh’s new landmark would replace the existing Filmouse, which opened on a neighbouring site 41 years ago on Lothian Road in a former church dating back to the 1830s.

The new 'film temple' would be able to accommodate twice as many cinemagoers as the existing Filmhouse.The new 'film temple' would be able to accommodate twice as many cinemagoers as the existing Filmhouse.
The new 'film temple' would be able to accommodate twice as many cinemagoers as the existing Filmhouse. | other

Mr Hay said: "“We’ve been looking for a new space that meets our own needs and those of 21st century audiences, but is also a much bigger and better facility for the wider film community and creative sectors.

“We’ve landed on Festival Square for a whole range of reasons. It’s very accessible for our audiences, but it’s also a space that everyone recognises has never worked as a public space since it was created.

"We aim to animate this space and actually create somewhere for the public to come to.

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“It would be a landmark destination and a real statement of how the city and the country views the most popular artform.

The new 'film temple' would be built between the Sheraton Grand Hotel and the Usher Hall.The new 'film temple' would be built between the Sheraton Grand Hotel and the Usher Hall.
The new 'film temple' would be built between the Sheraton Grand Hotel and the Usher Hall. | other

“We want it to be a home for film and screen - for watching, but also for learning, making and understanding.

"Through doubling the number of screens and seats for regular cinema-goers, creating dedicated education and learning spaces, and developing an iconic festival centre, all within a fully accessible and carbon neutral building, this really is a 21st century temple for film."

The square was previously earmarked for a new-look Filmhouse and festival HQ in 2004, but the plan failed to win the backing of the then council, Sir Sean Connery agreeing to put his name to the project, which was also designed by Mr Murphy, whose other cultural projects, include the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh and the Dundee Contemporary Arts complex.

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However Mr Hay insisted that this time round there had been extensive talks with the city council, heritage bodies and the site's near neighbours, including the Sheraton Grand Hotel, and other organisations in the cultural quarter, including the Usher Hall, and Royal Lyceum and Traverse theatres.

He said: "The council has agreed to give us access to the site on a long-term lease on a peppercorn rent, subject to planning permission and raising the funding.

"We’ll focus on fundraising if we get planning permission. There’s no point trying to raise £50m without it. We’re looking at potentially starting to fundraise at this time next year if we have planning permission.

"We’ve put a cost of approximately £50 million on the project, which is based on the current designs. We are doing a lot of work now so that we’re relatively confident that the final figure will be within a relatively small variation of that.

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“While we have got what look like quite detailed plans on the face of it, we are embarking on a genuine consultation process to ensure that by the time we submit a formal planning application we’ve taken the views of everyone on board.

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