Landmark: St Andrews cinema ‘cannot continue’ as US stars plan takeover

New Picture House Cinema in St Andrews “cannot continue” as it currently stands, according to managing director David Morris.

The plans from American superstars Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake to convert the cinema into a sports and entertainment attraction are still forging ahead despite community backlash. 

New Picture House opened its doors for the first time in 1930, and it remains an independent cinema and an integral part of the university town’s entertainment and cultural heritage.

Nearly four months ago, Nexus Luxury Collection – of which Woods and Timberlake are shareholders – proposed transforming the long-established film venue into its second T-Squared Social location. The brand would turn New Picture House into a premium sports and entertainment gastro pub. 

The plans sparked an immediate outcry in the local community. An online petition to save the cinema has gained more than 11,000 signatures.

Despite the fierce backlash, Orbit Communications – speaking on behalf of Nexus Luxury – confirmed that the plans are still moving forward. 

“The New Picture House will be closing its doors as it is running at under 10% occupancy and is no longer viable. Without a serious and timely intervention, a cinema offering will be lost to the town,” a statement said. 

“Many do not realize that the delivery of this sports and entertainment concept will enable a cinema offering to be maintained in the town and the building retained. Consideration should be made of this, and also the likely alternative uses as student or residential accommodation.” 

The statement continued: “The project team is currently working towards the delivery of a planning application, but in the meantime will be undertaking further activity to provide the community with further details of the proposed offering. A planning application will be submitted in due course.” 

Speaking for the cinema, Morris released a similar statement, reiterating that the “intervention by T-Squared” allows the cinema offering and the building to be retained for the town. 

“The majority of cinemas are experiencing a financial crisis, and we have been hit by a perfect storm of factors, impacting our ability to continue to trade,” Morris explained. 

Box office admissions in the UK, Morris claims, are still down 30% when compared to 2019. A cost of living crisis, rising energy prices, the impact of streaming services, and a reduction of successful independent and Hollywood films are all taking a toll on New Picture House. 

“There is now speculation that the 2024 global box office could be more than £1.5 billion less than 2023,” he said. 

However, the local St Andrews community has been devastated by the star-studded T-Square social plans. 

The New Picture House isn’t just any cinema; it’s the heart and soul of St Andrews. As the only cinema in our town, it holds a special place in the hearts of all who call this beautiful place home. It is not just a cinema; it is a sanctuary of memories, a place where our diverse community comes together to share in the joy of film and culture,” the online petition stated. 

The proposed transformation of the New Picture House into a luxury sports bar by T-Squared Social, an American company, is deeply alarming. Under these plans, the cinema will be reduced to a single screen, overshadowed by golf simulators and cocktail bars that cater predominantly to wealthy tourists. Such a development is out of touch with the needs and desires of the local community and the student population. It threatens to marginalise the very people who have nurtured and sustained the New Picture House for generations.

That petition has been signed and supported by more than 11,000 people. However, it’s not been enough to stop the plans from progressing. 

 

Gideon Canice

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