Edinburgh Filmhouse: Administrators called in over Edinburgh International Film Festival and cinemas collapse
The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) and two of Scotland’s leading independent cinemas have suddenly ceased trading after the charity behind them was plunged into administration.
Staff at the film festival and the Filmhouse cinemas in Edinburgh and Aberdeen were delivered the bombshell news on Thursday morning.
The administrators said 102 workers had immediately been made redundant.
A “perfect storm” of reduced audiences due to the pandemic, rising energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis are being blamed for the demise of the Centre for the Moving image (CMI).
Its trustees said the “unprecedented” combination and scale of the current challenges had left them with no option but to take immediate action.
The move to bring in administrators casts a huge doubt over the future of the EIFF, which has attracted the likes of Sir Sean Connery, Gene Kelly, Jacques Tati, Jennifer Lawrence, Tilda Swinton, Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, David Cronenberg, Cate Blanchett and Clint Eastwood since its launch in 1947.
The administrators, FRP Advisor, said they would be seeking to transfer the EIFF brand and trademark and were “hopeful” the CMI’s assets would attract the interest of businesses already operating in the film industry or entrepreneurs looking to enter it.
Asked about the collapse of the CMI at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon said: “This news is of huge concern and I know many people in Edinburgh and Aberdeen will be profoundly upset about it.
"These are really important cultural organisations and all us want to see them, if at all possible, go from strength to strength.
"The Scottish Government will consider whether there is any support we can bring to bear. We recognise the importance of these organisations and will do everything possible to support them at this difficult time.”
Culture secretary Angus Robertson said: “This will be an incredibly worrying time for everyone involved.
“The CMI plays an important role in Scotland’s cinema and festival landscape, across the Edinburgh Filmhouse, the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen and the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
“We understand that Creative Scotland is in talks to explore alternative options for cultural programming and we’re continuing to engage with Creative Scotland on this developing situation.”
The CMI is one of the most heavily-subsidised arts organisations in Scotland, with more than £1.7 million in annual grants from the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland and the councils in Edinburgh and Aberdeen for the current financial year.
However, the CMI’s statement set out “a perfect storm of external impacts which have created an environment in which it is unsustainable to continue”.
These include an expected rise in its energy bills of around £200,000 over the next 12 months, and the combination of eight years of “standstill funding” with a “highly uncertain” outlook, which has made financial planning “almost impossible” after March.
The administrators have been called in weeks after the festival celebrated its 75th anniversary.
Its long-time base, the Filmhouse on Lothian Road, marked its 40th anniversary in 2018. The CMI took over the Belmont in Aberdeen, which has a cinematic heritage dating back to 1898, in 2014.
Plans to create a new home for the EIFF and the Filmhouse in the heart of Festival Square, near Lothian Road, were announced in March 2020, just weeks before the Covid pandemic shut down venues and events. The designs faced opposition from heritage groups and the project has never secured planning permission.
The Edinburgh Filmhouse has faced more competition in the city since the Everyman chain opened at the new St James Quarter in April.
The CMI, which was set up in 2010 to run both the EIFF and the Edinburgh Filmhouse, has been led by chief executive Ken Hay.
Kristy Matheson was lured to Edinburgh from her role as director of film at Australia’s national museum of screen culture to become the CMI’s creative director to oversee the return of the film festival this summer. A leading Scottish legal figure, Alastair Morrison, was appointed chair of its board just over a year ago.
The trustees statement said: "The charity is facing the perfect storm of sharply rising costs, in particular energy costs, alongside reduced trade due to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
"The combination and scale of these challenges is unprecedented and means that there was no option but to take immediate action."
The trustees said the administrators would be working with Creative Scotland and Aberdeen and Edinburgh councils to explore “what options there are for the future of the individual elements of the charity’s work and supporting staff through the process”.
Edinburgh City Council leader Cammy Day said: “Like many people across the city and beyond, I’m absolutely devastated to hear the Filmhouse has gone into administration.
"A much loved and iconic cultural institution since it opened in the 1970s, we’re at risk of losing not only an independent cinema, but the spiritual home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
“This is, of course, desperately sad news for filmgoers – regular or occasional – and, more importantly, for the staff who’ve just found out they’re losing their jobs.
"My thoughts are with them all and I‘ve asked colleagues in our employability and skills team to reach out and offer whatever support they can.
“I’ve written to Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government asking them to reserve any remaining funding as we investigate potential solutions, while stressing the importance of working together with partners to preserve the future of the film festival and cultural cinema here in our city.”
A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland, which provided more than £1m a year in funding to the charity, said: “We are saddened by the news from CMI, the loss of employment, of cultural cinema programming in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and the impact on the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
“We are working to explore future options for such cinema programming in both Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s 2023 edition.”