Collapse of Edinburgh International Film Festival and Filmhouse is a grim omen - Brian Ferguson
There was an overwhelming, but unsurprising response on social media to the news that administrators had been called in by the charity behind the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) and the Filmhouse cinemas.
The immediate loss of 102 jobs, with the demise of the Centre for the Moving Image, is a sobering moment for Scottish culture given the international standing and reputation of the festival, and the role the cinemas in Edinburgh and Aberdeen have played in championing independent filmmaking.
This time last year, Scotland’s arts sector appeared to have weathered the storms of the pandemic without the loss of a major venue or institution.
Huge financial losses were racked up due to the pandemic shutdown ordered just before Christmas as fears mounted about the impact of the Omicron variant of Covid.
And within weeks of those restrictions being lifted, a new crisis was triggered by the war in Ukraine.
Soaring energy bills, which have hardly been out of the headlines for months, are inevitably on the minds of many people, especially with winter looming large.
But as well as dampening ticket sales, there are growing concerns these bills will have a direct crippling impact on building-based organisations.
The long list of “external factors”, which the CMI board claims had made it “unsustainable to continue”, pretty much replicated the “financial pressures” across the sector which Creative Scotland has highlighted to MSPs. The phrase “perfect storm” has notably been used by both parties.
The CMI’s financial collapse is a grim omen for the rest of the cultural sector, as hundreds of venues and organisations must be grappling with the very same issues.
There are undoubtedly serious questions to be asked about the CMI’s seemingly sudden collapse – especially given its annual funding is more than £1.5 million a year and it received a further £1.3m in emergency Covid support.
But the much bigger questions are over what happens to these two vitally important cinemas now – and how the EIFF can be revived in meaningful form.
There has to be some grounds for optimism that a way forward will be found for them all, given their loyal and devoted followings scattered around the world.
But it seems highly unlikely they will be the only cultural institutions which require saving over the next few months.