EXCLUSIVE: Picturehouse takes over programming of ICA from ICO, consults on Regent Street Cinema.

UK indie cinema chain City Screen, which runs the Picturehouse cinemas, continues its UK expansion with a new venue in Brighton and a programming role at London’s ICA.

The company has also won a tender to consult on the cinema operation of the University of Westminster’s Regent Street Cinema venue and is now well placed to assume programming of the site, which Screen understands is likely to function as a unversity and commercial venue.

The three-screen cinema in Brighton’s Komedia building is set to open in December 2012 and will be a host venue for Brighton’s CINECITY film festival.

“We’ve been looking for an opportunity to expand the cinema for years, and with Komedia we think we have found the perfect home” said Jon Barrenechea, general manager of the Duke of York’s Picturehouse, one of the UK’s oldest cinema sites.

Komedia’s programme of comedy, cabaret, live music and children’s theatre will contine in the refurbished downstairs cabaret and studio theatre, with the new cinema housed upstairs. The Duke of York’s venue will be re-decorated to coincide with the opening of the new build.

City Screen’s Picturehouse brand, which most recently opened a venue in Hackney, is also making inroads toward having its own prized West End venue.

Screen has learnt that Picturehouse recently took over programming of arts venue ICA on The Mall from the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) and has also been awarded a contract that was part of an open tender process to work on the business plan for the re-launch of the Regent Street Cinema, which is likely to run University of Westminster events alongside exhibitor programming.

Regent Street Cinema, which staged a launch event last week to discuss its £6m refurbishment, is still in need of £3m before it can open to the public.

A second tender will go out at a later date for the right to programme the prestigious venue with Picturehouse and Curzon among exhibitors to have expressed interest.

Clare Binns, programming and acquisitions director at Picturehouse Cinemas and Picturehouse Entertainment, told Screen that she hopes their programming of the ICA will increase attendances at the venue:

“The ICA will continue to have its own voice. But we have also been working with them to see how we can build its strong brand identity going forward. We’re trying to bring more people to the venue. They have spent money refurbishing and we have helped them acquire their second digital projector. It’s a slow build but I hope in a year or two the ICA will have its own character unlike any cinema in the West End.”

“There are so many films that don’t get an opportunity to play in the West End because sites are playing the same films but this is an opportunity to do that. This gives us a chance to programme innovative, exciting films that don’t always get a chance to screen but we will also tailor the programming to what the customers want.”

Picturehouse’s Jo Blair will programme with Binns.

Gregor Muir, executive director ICA addd: “Cinema is at the heart of the ICA and has been since its inception. We are delighted to be working in collaboration with Clare Binns and Jo Blair on continuing to build the reputation of the ICA as a unique home for new independent and world cinema.”

“Our commitment to film is demonstrated by the launch of the LUX/ICA Biennial of Moving Images (24 – 27 May), recent exhibitions of experimental film-makers and by the Artists’ Film Club, an ongoing platform for dialogue and debate surrounding contemporary artists’ moving image at the ICA. And we will continue to partner with festivals including the London Short Film Festival and the London Film Festival.”

Binns would not be drawn on the possibility of Picturehouse programming the Regent Street Cinema venue, but said: “We have always been looking for a Picturehosue Central.”

City Screen operates 20 cinemas and programmes 36 additional venues.