UPDATE: Edinburgh property mangagement specialist John Alexander has teamed up with the Filmhouse’s former head of programming Rod White, former technician David Boyd, former programme manager James Rice and former chief executive Ginnie Atkinson for a last-minute bid to take over the building and keep it as a cinema, as first reported in The Scotsman, and is in talks with the Scottish government, Screen Scotland and the city council.
White confirmed to Screen, however, “The administrator seems to feel the need to see it through with one of the original highest bidders.”
ORIGINAL: The Edinburgh Filmhouse building, the former home of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), is facing an uncertain future as a cinema, with a spokesperson for the administrators handling the sale of the property telling Screen: “The joint administrators have a legal obligation to realise best value for the company and its creditors.”
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 EIFF – went into administration in October of this year.
FRP Advisory was appointed as administrators to oversee the sale of the building in October. A campaign was launched last year to protect the building’s future as an independent cinema, with a bid for ownership attempt from former Filmhouse staff, as well as the team from London’s Prince Charles Cinema. Both were unsuccessful at the time of the original bidding deadline (December 7).
According to a report yesterday in The Scotsman (March 15), the administrators’ preferred bidder was the Signature Pub Group, who would not have opened the venue as a cinema, but as a film-themed bar. The company was a past sponsor of the EIFF. However, the company is reported to have withdrawn its bid after the administrators were unable to transfer the building’s licence to serve alcohol.
It has not been confirmed by the administrators who the preferred bidder currently is. David Smith, director of Screen Scotland, posted on his personal Twitter yesterday (March 15): “It’s true, @Filmhouse has still not been sold, but the administrators have zero interest in saving the cinema, they just want the highest price they can get. If you want to save it, write to your City councillor, petition government, we must all continue to do all that we can.”
In a separate post, published today (March 16), he wrote: “If you want @filmhouse saved now is the moment to tell the Council & Government, & the administrator. It is on the verge of being sold to an Edinburgh developer, who plans to turn it into a private members club. Do what you can now to demonstrate how unhappy you are with that.”
A Screen Scotland spokesperson told Screen that a public bid to take over the cinema is not looking likely, but that the body continues to lobby for a cinema to remain at 88 Lothian Road: “While there is no public bid to acquire 88 Lothian Road, the building that has been home to the Filmhouse for 40 years, Screen Scotland continues to work with Scottish government and city of Edinburgh council to support any bid that will see Filmhouse open again as a cultural cinema.”
EIFF, it was revealed earlier this month, will return for a one-off edition as part of the Edinburgh International Festival in August, led by programmer Kate Taylor.
Signature Pub Group has been contacted for comment.