Filmhouse Edinburgh

Source: Lesley Martin

Filmhouse Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Filmhouse building has been sold for £2.65m to a commercial bidder, according to a notice of administrator’s progress report published on Companies House by the joint administrators, FRP Advisory.

The identity of the buyer has not been confirmed.

The 88 Lothian Road building was put up for sale after parent company the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI) – which also ran the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen and the Edinburgh International Film Festival – went into administration in October of this year.

FRP Advisory was appointed as administrators to oversee the sale of the building, with estate agent Savills launching the sales process in November. A total of sixteen bids were put in for takeover, including from a collaboration between former Filmhouse staff and local businessman John Alexander, and the team from London’s Prince Charles Cinema.

It was reported that commercial bidder Signature Pub Group was, at one point, the preferred bidder from the joint administrators, however withdrew after the building’s licence to serve alcohol was not successfully transferred.

The Companies House report stated: “Bidders ranged from interested parties wanting to redevelop the building for alternative use, commercial bar operators and cinema groups. There were a small number of bids from not-for-profit organisations seeking to retain the cinema’s cultural focus.

“We evaluated the bids in the normal fashion based on value to the Company and its creditors. Although we could not prioritise bids of a cultural nature, we focussed on assessing whether there were any at a level which could result in a full return to the Company’s creditors. There were not and the gap between the highest commercial bidders and the cultural bidders exceeded £1m. Accordingly, we decided to proceed with a commercial interested party in order to maximise value to the Company and its creditors.”

Many have called into question whether Edinburgh Filmhouse should be sold to the highest commercial bidder, given the level of public investment put into the Filmhouse and its cultural value. Screenwriter Paul Laverty, filmmakers Mark Cousins and Kevin Macdonald and actor Tilda Swinton, alongside councillors and Edinburgh MPs, have publicly called for the building to remain a cinema.

The report confirms that after the transferal of liquor licence was unsuccessful, the administrators reassessed its options in February, considering alternative parties “based on their initial bids and subsequent dialogue. We remained keen to explore a cultural bid and engaged significantly with Creative Scotland as the funding body for all cultural bidders. Although a further bid was received from a culturally motivated bidder, it was not at a sufficient level and would not have led to a full recovery to the Company’s creditors.”

The sale was completed on April 6. The report noted: “The acquiror has requested we do not disclose their identity at this stage.”

Screen has contacted the administrators for comment, with a representative confirming the sale but unable to give a timeline for when the identity of the new owner would be announced.

The Scotsman reported that property management group Caledonian Heritable, who own The Dome, Ryan’s Bar and the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh, was named as the new owners of the cinema building at a demonstration staged by activists in the Save the Filmhouse campaign.

Caledonian Heritable declined Screen’s request for comment.

The Scotsman also reported on ongoing negotiations with the Scottish Government, its Screen Scotland agency and the council over the possibility of an arthouse cinema reopening imminently, on lease from the new 88 Lothian Road building owners.

Screen Scotland has also been contacted for comment.