Thurso earmarked as HQ in cinema expansion plans

10th May 2013 from John O'Groat Journal

Thurso Cinema operator Rob Arthur is intent on putting the Ormlie Road complex in the vanguard of a major revival of the silver screen in the Scottish hinterland.

Speaking this week in the wake of a £350,000 digital makeover of the former All St@r Factory complex, he said discussions have started to earmark venues in other towns which could accommodate cinemas.

He aims to create within six years a network throughout the country, which would be serviced by a 30-strong specialist team in Thurso.

His company currently employs 12 though four new staff have been taken on as the operators prepare to reopen the bar at the complex.

His sights are focused on consolidating the move into digital, which has replaced the long-established 35 millimetre film format.

“Like other cinemas, we need to go digital or die,” he said at an open night on Wednesday when he unveiled the expansion plans.

He said film studios contributed towards the £350,000 cost of the changeover which was implemented at the end of March.

The tie-up with Sony to install its 4D projection system and with Dolby for its state-of-the-art surround sound not only markedly improves the quality of movies it screens. It also allows live and recorded streaming of high-profile evens such as opera, theatre, rock concerts and sports competitions.

Mr Arthur is encourage by the turnout for its first live link-up, the showing of Verdi’s Nabucco from the Royal Opera House.

His game-plan is to replicate what he has done in Thurso in similar-sized communities elsewhere in Scotland.

He said: “Across Scotland, about 1.6 million live outside the cities. Many of these communities have lost their cinema with very few now operating outwith the big city cinemas.

“I see no reason why we can’t be like Ireland where every decent-sized town has a cinema.”

Among those who attended Wednesday’s function was Frazer Coupland, who is project director of a Fort William-based Outdoor Capital promotional group whose aims include the restoration of the town’s cinema.

He said: “We’ve been looking into the feasibility of reviving the cinema in Fort William and are very interested in what is going on in Thurso.”

Mr Arthur confirmed that Fort William could be part of his network along with towns as far as Berwick or Dumfries.

He said: “The building we’d be looking to develop need not have been a cinema. It could have been a sports centre or a store or an inn - just as long as it is big enough to accommodate us.”

He envisages the new venues each employing about 10 and being serviced from the far north.

“The operations team for all the cinemas would be based in Thurso, which would support the other bases,” Mr Arthur said. “The technical jobs, along with the finance, HR and IT staff would be up here.”

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