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Resistance could spell the end for Cameo Cinema, say owners

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December 15 2005

The owners of the Cameo have not withdrawn their application for planning permission to alter the main auditorium of the Edinburgh cinema. Although a packed public meeting organised by the Save the Cameo campaign, was told that City Screen had instructed their architects Kerr Blyth Associates to withdraw the heavily criticised planning proposal KBA have not received a final instruction to do so. Campaigners wish to block proposed changes to the main auditorium from a cinema to what Kerr Blyth of KBA describes as a room which “will offer a multi-function screening use” with “full meal or buffet style catering options with drinks facilities.”

At the public meeting, which KBA were billed to attend, local residents and cinema-goers expressed fears that the alterations would lead to the loss of the cinema. However Kerr Blyth says that the plans may be the only way to retain a cinema in the building. A statement from Lyn Goleby, managing director of City Screen, the cinema’s current owner, was read out to the public meeting which stated that she had suggested to her architect that “we withdraw the existing applications for the Cameo as we, in time, will regrettably withdraw our presence from Scotland”.

The architects however had not been given a “final instruction” to withdraw the planning application at the time of going to press.
Kerr Blyth pulled out of the public meeting which he had planned to attend in order to explain the proposals he had drawn up by City Screen, but pulled out when his client sent an e-mail to the Save the Cameo campaign Goleby stated in the email that there was “no potential benefit in attending a further meeting” because of “the wholly negative press and feedback”. Kerr Blyth agreed that it had become impossible for him to explain the concept for the proposal to the public. “We can’t communicate that to anybody because of the way the campaign group have generated a frenzy relating to a ‘super pub’ which is just a nonsense. At the moment the Cameo is making only a tiny profit and the management have to think about their shareholders. The key thing is how people see the Cameo in the future,” he said.

Blyth insisted that their proposals, which he was advised by council officials would not require an application for change of use, would actually be more sympathetic to the original design of the building than the current fit-out. “We have taken away the add-ons, which have compromised the original integrity of the interior. Currently the lobby and main space cuts through cornices. The interiors are not positively lit,” said Blyth. He added that the reconfiguration would see the number of seats drop from 394 to 230. However, the number of screens would increase from three to four.

According to Blyth Stefan King’s G1 Group had only been approached for advice and there had been no plans to sell the building, before the Save the Cameo campaign was established. Ginnie Atkinson, producer of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), said that she would “love to operate both cinemas” but stated that the organisation didn’t have the £750,000 to buy the cinema and that the EIFF still wished to pursue a shared facility in a Richard Murphy-designed building on Festival Square. Blyth suggested that his client had “retreated to lick her wounds for a while’ but that if she did decide to sell, “there was every possibility that the cinema could be sold for a furniture shop or a mini-supermarket”.

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