Businesses could save old Whiteladies Road cinema, inquiry told
By The Bristol Post | Thursday, January 10, 2013, 08:00
SUCCESSFUL Bristol-based filmmaking firms could potentially rescue the former ABC cinema in Clifton, a public inquiry heard.
The former ABC Cinema in Whiteladies Road, Clifton
Wildlife film scriptwriter and producer Sue Western said burgeoning creative businesses based near the venue in Whiteladies Road may be willing to support a project to bring the dilapidated building back into use as a cinema.
Ms Western, who worked for the BBC for 17 years and writes scripts for David Attenborough, gave evidence on the second day of an inquiry being held into plans to turn the former cinema into six flats and a gym.
The inquiry has been launched because the building's owner Medinbrand has contested Bristol City Council's decision to refuse permission for the plans last year.
Campaigners and residents want to see the iconic corner building, which closed as a picture house in 2000, reopened as a cinema or community facility.
But developers Medinbrand say resurrecting the Grade II-listed venue as a cinema is not a viable option.
Ms Western, who lives in Clifton, told the inquiry at the Mansion House in Clifton Village that successful creative organisations based near the former cinema may be able to provide the financial clout to reopen the cinema.
She said they included the BBC's Natural History Unit, in Whiteladies Road, successful film and television production firm Films at 59, in Cotham Hill and Whiteladies Road, and Aardman Animations, in the city docks. She said support for reopening the cinema may also be available from Bristol-based Alastair Fothergill, producer of Planet Earth and Frozen Planet.
Ms Western, giving evidence for campaign group Keep Cinema Local, said: "Private companies are flourishing in close proximity to the building. The area is thick with successful and growing companies.
"They generate a huge amount of money. Films at 59 has a £10 million turnover. The Natural History Unit is generating money nationally and is one of the greatest exports this country has. I'm sure they (film companies) would use it (the former cinema) regularly for private and public screenings."
Ms Western said filmmakers may want to hold red carpet premieres at the cinema, if it were reopened.
She said: "If he (Fothergill) could pull that sort of focus and attention to Bristol, he would do that. If it turned into a state-of-the-art cinema, it would put us on the map nationally."
Ms Western, who collected 5,500 names on a petition calling for the building to be reopened as a community venue in 2001, told the inquiry that approximately 20,000 people lived within a 20-minute walk of the building, making it an ideal location for a cinema.