Coronavirus: Dominion Cinema plans for July reopening

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter

  • Published
Alastair Cameron
Image caption,
Alastair Cameron said everything had now been put in place to enable the cinema to open safely when the time comes

The owner of one of the oldest cinemas in Scotland says he hopes to be able to reopen its doors in mid-July.

The coronavirus lockdown forced the family-run Dominion Cinema in Edinburgh to close for only the second time in its 82-year history.

Director Alastair Cameron said they had "battened down the hatches" to make sure the business survived.

But he said everything had now been put in place to enable the cinema to open safely when the time came.

"We have thought out all the social distancing logistics and drawn up all the plans," he said.

"People will be seeing parts of the building they have never seen before as they enter through one of our many emergency exits."

He said they had also created 6ft (1.8m) spaces between seats in the auditoriums.

Image source, Dominion Cinema
Image caption,
The cinema is in the Morningside area of Edinburgh

It says that the reopening of cinemas in England would not take place until 4 July at the earliest.

However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stressed Mr Johnson's announcements do not apply in Scotland.

The Scottish government said decisions on reopening cinemas would be "guided by public health evidence that says it is safe to do so".

Mr Cameron said he hoped that cinemas would all be able to open at the same time across the UK, although he acknowledged that this depended on the decisions of the Scottish government.

"We need notice of when we are all opening because we need to speak with the film distributors to make sure they give us good product," he said.

"If we open at different times then some films won't get a fair amount of showing time."

The Dominion is one of two family-run cinemas in Scotland.

Image source, Alastair Cameron
Image caption,
William Cameron built the Dominion Cinema in eight weeks

Mr Cameron, his sister, Lesley, and brother, Michael, who are also directors of the business, are the third generation to have run the cinema. Katie Cameron is the general manager and Charlie Cameron is the marketing manager.

The company was incorporated by their grandfather, William Cameron, on 13 May 1937 when he bought the land in Newbattle Terrace. The cinema opened on 31 January 1938.

The only other time that it has been forced to close was in September 1939, when there were fears over air raids at the start of World War Two.

However, the Dominion reopened a week later due to public demand.

Mr Cameron said: "Back in those days the only form of entertainment was newspapers, radio and film. People wanted to break away from their lives and come here to watch films."

Many Hollywood stars have visited the Dominion down the years, including Judy Dench, Billy Connolly, Steve Martin and Sigourney Weaver.

Image source, Sandy Young/Getty images
Image caption,
Marc Evans, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman at the Dominion during the Edinburgh International Film Festival

The cinema once held 1,300 people, but its seats have since been replaced with 410 large sofas.

Mr Cameron has had to furlough his 15 staff during the lockdown and has been given a council tax exemption from the council.

He said: "It takes a long time to shut down a company of our size.

"I've thought a lot during this lockdown about what my father, Derek Cameron, would have done with the business if he were still here. He passed away eight years ago and spent decades teaching us the business.

"I have been thinking of him and our actions and I think he would be nodding his approval about how we are dealing with it.

"He taught us to batten down the hatches and make sure the business survived."

He added: "We will open our doors and start turning on our projectors soon."

Image source, Alastair Cameron
Image caption,
Alastair Cameron's father, Derek, always wore black tie at the cinema to greet every one of his customers at weekend showings

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