Tilda Swinton is the latest high-profile industry figure to throw their support behind a campaign to save Edinburgh’s Filmhouse Cinema as reports suggest the popular rep house is close to being bought by a hospitality business.
In a rare public statement handed to Deadline, Swinton, who lives in Nairn, Scotland, described Filmhouse Cinema as an “invaluable cultural resource” for the city of Edinburgh that deserves to be “in the hands of legitimate cineastes who will nurture its future and the legacy of cultural cinema in Edinburgh and beyond.”
“This is an opportunity for all of us to join together to put a flag on the field: culture matters in Scotland. Let’s make it so,” she said in the statement, adding that any potential sale of the cinema to a private owner must be conducted with “unequivocal transparency.”
Edinburgh Filmhouse first closed its doors last October alongside Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen, Northern Scotland, when the trustees in charge of the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI), the charity which operated both sites along with the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), appointed administrators.
A statement from the CMI at the time said a “perfect storm” of rising costs and falling admissions numbers due to the pandemic had been exacerbated by the current cost of living crisis. All three institutions ceased trading immediately, and staff members were made redundant.
Administrators listed the Filmhouse building on Lothian Road in central Edinburgh in November. Since then, two bids that would have seen the cinema reopen have been unsuccessful. One of these bids included a proposal from Gregory Lynn, the Scottish owner of the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s West End. A group of former employees of the cinema also failed to raise enough money to make a bid.
It has been reported by local press that administrators intend to sell to the highest bidder, and a preferred proposal had come in from Signature Pub Group, one of Edinburgh’s biggest hospitality businesses, who drafted plans to turn the cinema into a film-themed restaurant. Signature later pulled its bid after it failed to obtain an alcohol license for the building.
Administrators are believed to be in talks with another pub operator over the sale of the building. Earlier this month, David Smith, director of Screen Scotland, tweeted that Filmhouse was on the verge of being sold to an “Edinburgh developer, who plans to turn it into a private members club.”
In an earlier tweet, Smith urged local supporters to take action, saying administrators had “zero interest in saving the cinema.”
“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,” he tweeted.
Edinburgh Filmhouse had previously been the home of the Edinburgh Film Festival. The festival’s future had also been in doubt following the CMI’s demise, but this month, we reported that EIFF is set to return in August with a scaled-down “special one-year iteration.”
Kate Taylor has also taken over as Programme Director following the departure of Kristy Matheson, who moved to the BFI to head LFF.
Following the closure of the cinema, a local campaign titled Save The Filmhouse, comprised of former Filmhouse employees and patrons, was created and ballooned into a larger movement with support from industry figures and filmmakers.
“Filmhouse was (and could be again) the beating heart of film in Edinburgh and Scotland,” Last Night in Soho filmmaker Edgar Wright recently tweeted. “It’s a crime to let this be anything other than a centre for cinematic culture.”
It’s currently unknown whether a new bid has been accepted. The Filmhouse property is currently listed as “Under Offer” on the website of estate agent Savills. An announcement on the eventual buyer is expected soon.
Tilda Swinton’s full statement:
The Edinburgh Filmhouse belongs to Edinburgh.
It is not a privately owned commodity to be sold – without the bounds of unequivocal transparency – to a private buyer. The Filmhouse – it’s state of the art projectors, DCP equipment and valuable archive material – is largely paid for and owned by the public and it is the due diligence of politicians and impassioned citizens alike to protest its unaccountable sale by administrators – who are, incidentally, set to benefit financially by such a transaction – to the highest bidder. This is an invaluable cultural resource for a city that deserves the Filmhouse it already owns to be in the hands of legitimate cineastes who will nurture its future and the legacy of cultural cinema in Edinburgh and beyond. This is an opportunity for all of us to join together to put a flag on the field: culture matters in Scotland. Let’s make it so.