For a time, it seemed as if the commercial cinema was, if not doomed, then limited to the big multi-screen complexes and the occasional specialist centre such as the Filmhouse in Edinburgh or the GLasgow Film Theatre. But none of the worst predictions has come to pass and there’s a growing interest in the ‘big screen’ productions away from the city centres. The Screen Machine is currently touring the Highlands and, shortly, the new Birks Cinema will be formally opened in Aberfeldy. And the town is gearing up for the event next month because Hollywood star and Scottish actor, Alan Cumming OBE, has agreed to carry out the opening ceremony.The cinema has been operating since the Spring but its transformation from derelict Bingo Hall to its current glory has been a story of true grit, determination and enthusiasm by local film buffs. And the actor has played a considerable part in the story. Alan Cumming has been the cinema’s Patron since 2009, lending his considerable support to a local fundraising campaign that eventually saw the building undergo a £1.3million renovation programme and return to its original use as a local cinema at the heart of the community.
To celebrate the official opening of the renovated cinema, Alan will be welcomed into town on Saturday 30th November for a red carpet gala event and a private screening of his latest film, Any Day Now. “I’m truly delighted to be visiting Aberfeldy,” he said, “and I’m very much looking forward to seeing The Birks Cinema in all its finery. Everyone involved in this project has shown true dedication and commitment and I’m very excited to finally see it for myself.”General Manager, Paul Foley is also looking forward to welcoming Alan, saying that the community was “very grateful to Alan Cumming for his support and delighted that he has been able to make the trip over to Scotland to formally pronounce us open. I’m looking forward to rolling out the red carpet, welcoming Alan to The Birks Cinema and making this St Andrews Day a very memorable and historic one for Aberfeldy.”
But Aberfeldy isn’t the only place to see the arrival of famous folk from the films. On Saturday 2nd November, a 30th anniversary screening of Local Hero will be shown in Mallaig, one of the locations used in the film. Director Bill Forsyth and international producer Iain Smith will introduce the screening and talk to the audience about the inspirations behind what is regarded as one of the giants of Scottish cinema.
Then on Sunday 3rd November, Scottish actor Bill Paterson will unveil a rare 40th anniversary screening of the BBC film production of 7:84 Theatre’s seminal play The Cheviot, The Stag & The Black, Black Oil in Dornie where it was partly shot and where many local residents were involved in the making of the film.
The film screenings are part of the Creative Scotland funded Natural Scotland on Screen project that showcases how films and television have imagined and represented Scotland’s rich landscape and biodiversity. The Screen Machine – Scotland’s mobile cinema – will host the screenings as part of its own 15th anniversary touring programme.Douglas Dougan, Natural Scotland on Screen Film Project Manager, pointed out that “we have 60 films and 30 television programmes which have been collected together to show off the beautiful locations and natural resources Scotland has to offer. So far we have shown 50 films in cinemas in the Highlands, Islands, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh, with more still to come before the end of the year. This special weekend is the highpoint in the programme with outstanding films and high profile guests.”
Iain Munro, Deputy Chief Executive at Creative Scotland added that “Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero is a Scottish cult classic, with The Cheviot, The Stag & The Black Black Oil a rarely seen masterpiece. This is a great opportunity for people to experience these two landmark Scottish films as they come back home to their roots.”