Screen Time? Cinemas and Town Centres

One of the things that people have missed though the pandemic is the ability to go to a cinema and see a film. This is a social as well as an artistic activity, whihc raises questions about the types and locations of cinemas. Given they are a customer draw and can be an asset and attractor for a place and for people, there is considerable interest in cinemas and town centres.

With the announcement last week of the The Arc’s plans for a cinema in Ayr, I thought it might be interesting to get some reflections on cinemas and town centres in Scotland. I therefore asked Rob Arthur, who is a Director at The Big Picture (Cinema Advisers) Ltd and has over 30 years of experience of working in cinema globally to provide some comments. His thoughts are below.

“Scotland has a vibrant, successful, and diverse cinema sector which has seen a steady period of growth from the very first multiplex location constructed at Clydebank in 1988 through to the latest opening of the Highland Cinema in Fort William in late 2020. The development of digital, 3D and alternative content (opera, ballet, sports, entertainment shows, gaming) has supported this growth.

Total Scottish box office in 2019 was £100m. 33 cinemas in Scotland are operated by the major chains – Cineworld, Odeon, Vue, Showcase, Empire and Everyman. The majors concentrate their efforts on the main cities and large population densities, but do not venture outwards to expand and extend cinema-going to smaller and less densely populated areas of the country. The other 74 venues are independent or arthouse from the Mareel in Shetland to the newly upgraded Picture House in Campbeltown. These venues play a critical part in the cultural and social networking across the country in any given year.

There is a strong commitment to the future of the industry from all key stakeholders – investors, landlords, developers, producers, operators, and key suppliers – to enable future openings that includes a new Vue Cinema at Glasgow’s St Enoch Centre and an Everyman boutique offer at the St James Quarter in Edinburgh. Plans are underway for new further developments in Aberdeen, Cumbernauld, Dumfries, Montrose, Paisley, and The Arc’s newly announced plans for Ayr.

Residents of towns and cities across Scotland (and across the world) generally put cinemas at the top or near the top of their wish list of leisure facilities that they would like to have located in their area. Reasons for this include:  

  • Cinemas act as a catalyst for the re-purposing and regeneration of a town centre and are generally welcomed by those who have stayed in an area for many years and those who are recent or new arrivals. 
  • The largest entertainment companies globally, including Disney, Universal, Sony, Paramount, Warner Bros; the National Theatre, and the Royal Opera House provide substantial marketing support on an on-going basis to promote their content at local venues, making them relevant all year round.
  • Cinemas offer an entertainment and multi-arts venue with an ever-broadening offer, driven by the developments in technology, flexible distribution, new types of content and local demand for all ages and demographics.
  • Flexibility to programme a Kid’s Club screening; family afternoon visits on a rainy day; a live theatre screening; the latest blockbusters with friends; weekend date nights followed by a meal at a local restaurant; the hosting of a business conference.
  • Cinemas are welcoming places, and they have a significant positive economic and social impact, particularly in the post work 6pm – 9pm time period throughout the year as a place of entertainment.
  • In a survey conducted at Silverburn Shopping Centre and replicated elsewhere, the addition of a cinema increased footfall by 8% and food and drinks sales by over 11%.
  • Innovation has provided an opportunity to deliver greater customer choice which is in turn driving greater consumer demand. With the flexibility and quality of the latest sound and vision technology, cinemas can range in size from 4,000 sqft to 100,000 sqft of NLA.

A cinema venue will give local people the opportunity to see a film; provide employment in a key industry sector; and enable staff to reach out into the community to work on projects and initiatives that will ensure that the venue becomes a Cultural and Social Hub in the Town Centre. 

In Summary, a cinema venue located in a Town Centre will:

  • Be open for business every day and into the 6pm – 9pm dormant period and programme films at times that are convenient to all parts of the community.
  • Become the meeting place for a film, live event, coffee or to go on to having a meal at a local restaurant.
  • Create local jobs directly and indirectly (local restaurants and shops) which will have an economic and social impact all year round.”
The Birks Cinema Cafe Bar, Aberfeldy (land and buildings purchased in part with a grant of £320,000 from the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Regeneration Fund in 2009). Full history here.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Buildings, Cinemas, Consumers, Creative Places, High Streets, Regeneration, Retailers, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Social value, Town Centres, Towns, Uncategorized, Urban History and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Screen Time? Cinemas and Town Centres

  1. Another interesting blog post Leigh – thanks.
    It resonated with me since it’s a big local issue in the small town (Beeston) close to where I live 6km or so to the west of Nottingham where a multi-screen cinema has just been built.
    The local paper published two articles about it last week, one of which includes my comments!

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