Former Edinburgh Filmhouse bosses shun takeover bid to secure future of cinema at landmark site

Former Edinburgh Filmhouse staff have shunned an attempted takeover plan by the Scottish owner of an independent cinema in London’s West End.

An image from the Scottish coming-of-age romantic comedy film Gregory’s Girl was projected onto the Filmhouse in Edinburgh after it was suddenly closed down when its operator went into administration. Picture: Jane Barlow
An image from the Scottish coming-of-age romantic comedy film Gregory’s Girl was projected onto the Filmhouse in Edinburgh after it was suddenly closed down when its operator went into administration. Picture: Jane Barlow

Ex-senior staff fronting a £2 million crowdfunding campaign to buy the Lothian Road landmark have refused to support a bid led by Prince Charles Cinema boss Gregory Lynn.

The group has accused the new bidders of “a very clever piece of PR” in announcing their plans to run an independent community cinema in Edinburgh, by implying “that they care about cultural cinema.”

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Mr Lynn has insisted that his reborn Filmhouse would still showcase “an eclectic mix of world cinema,", but would not require a public subsidy.

Gregory Lynn is leading a bid to take over the Filmhouse building in Edinburgh.

He has also pledged to embark on a major revamp of the building, claiming it had been allowed to be “run into the ground.” Detailed surveys carried out by Mr Lynn’s team are said to have uncovered evidence of “substantial disrepair.”

However the senior ex-workers behind the Crowdfunder page – which has raised £165,287 from 1600 donors – has suggested the Filmhouse’s nature would change significantly if the rival bid is successful.

The crowdfunding group includes former chief executive Ginnie Atkinson, former head of programming Rod White, former head technician David Boyd and former programme manager James Rice.

The group said: “This is a very clever piece of PR as they’ve managed to imply they care about cultural cinema – maybe they do, but truly diverse cultural cinema programming simply doesn’t pay its way in a straightforwardly-commercial business, which PCC is.

"Cultural cinema, as delivered by the Filmhouse we knew and loved, requires subsidy from arts funders – which Filmhouse received for many years and will do so again, if our bid is successful.

"PCC also imply, by using the word ‘encouragement’, that they have the support of the funders and even the Edinburgh Film Guild. PCC have had meetings with everyone in recent days, and any 'enthusiasm' for their bid is on the basis that a cinema there is better than a pub.“We have finished an in-depth business model to demonstrate the financial viability of a new Filmhouse. This model has been deemed thoroughly credible by those that matter. Creative Scotland, for one, are supporting our bid.”

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A spokeman for the PCC bid said: “The team has had positive conversations with Edinburgh City Council, Creative Scotland, Screen Scotland and the Edinburgh Film Guild, with whom they have shared their vision to follow a highly-successful business model of combining themed seasons of world and classic cinema, with specialised new independent releases, unique event screenings and a wide variety of festivals.”

Former Edinburgh International Film Festival director Mark Cousins posted on Twitter: “I LOVE @ThePCCLondon. Have long admired their passion, Dionysian energy. A great pleasuredome.

“In Edinburgh we need a cinema that'll also do deep programming dives, surveys of careers, themes, is truly global, that works with schools, communities, that asks which aspects of film culture aren't being explored, revealed. In other words a cinematheque. Ideal for me is a place which is a cinematheque + pleasuredome. That has radical energy and joy. We can have a cinema which is both.”

A Creative Scotland spokeswoman said: “Our primary aim is the continuation of cultural cinema provision. Discussions continue with a number of partners as regards how this is best achieved.”