Group launches plan for per­ma­nent town cin­ema

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

LOCHABER Cin­ema Group (LCG) plans to con­vert two for­mer re­tail units in Fort Wil­liam town cen­tre into a cin­ema seat­ing 160 peo­ple.

The largest town in the High­lands has been with­out a per­ma­nent cin­ema for more than decade, with cin­ema-go­ers hav­ing to travel long dis­tances to view many films, in­clud­ing the Harry Pot­ter se­ries, which were made on their doorsteps.

Last year the group looked at us­ing the old stu­dio cin­ema in Cameron Square, but group chair­woman Marie MacPherson said the prop­erty was ‘ too far gone’.

Ms MacPherson said it would cost around £1 mil­lion to get the Cameron Square lo­ca­tion up and run­ning again and up to stan­dard af­ter Lochaber Dis­abil­ity Ac­cess Panel rec­om­mended refurbishment work would need to be done to ac­com­mo­date mod­ern wheel­chairs.

She told The Oban Times that LCG has put in a ver­bal of­fer on units five and six, High Street, Fort Wil­liam, which will cost around £180,000.

The prop­er­ties are the only ones in the cen­tre which are joined to­gether to make room for two screens, with around 100 seats in one and 60 in the other.

Ms MacPherson said: ‘It will take us be­tween three and six months to get the money to buy the prop­erty and about 12 months to do the re­fur­bish­ments.’

LCG hopes to cre­ate 10 new jobs, two of them full-time.

The group won £1,500 in the Your Voice Your Choice awards last year which they used to buy a screen and PA sys­tem. It then con­tacted Lochaber schools to hold Christ­mas screen­ing of the movie Elf – the film was shown in schools in Mal­laig, Kin­lochleven and Caol.

As well as the plans for a per­ma­nent cin­ema, LCG is launch­ing a Satur­day chil­dren’s film club, start­ing on March 4 at Caol Com­mu­nity Cen­tre.

The cost of see­ing the films, which Ms MacPherson said will be cho­sen by the young­sters and their fam­i­lies, is a £ 3 mem­ber­ship, and all the screen­ings will be autism friendly.

Ms MacPherson hopes to run the com­mu­nity screen­ings in Caol, Kin­lochleven and Spean Bridge once a month, and she is cur­rently look­ing to find halls in the vil­lages to use.

The pro­pos­als to open a two­screen cin­ema in Fort Wil­liam will be a ‘ very pos­i­tive step for­ward for the area’, ac­cord­ing to Lochaber MP Ian Black­ford who has ex­pressed his sup­port for the pro­ject.

Mr Black­ford said he was pleased to hear the group has been ‘gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence by or­gan­is­ing screen­ings at lo­cal pri­mary schools and for spe­cial in­ter­est groups’.

He added: ‘Hav­ing a per­ma­nent lo­cal cin­ema will cer­tainly be an as­set to the area, for lo­cals and vis­i­tors, adding to the list of things to do in Lochaber.’

LCG has an on­line pe­ti­tion to sup­port a full-time cin­ema in Lochaber which has been signed by 155 peo­ple so far.

The pe­ti­tion can been viewed at www.thep­e­ti­tion­

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