Group launches plan for permanent town cinema
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.thepetitionsite.com