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Posted 01.11.18

A new home for Plymouth Arts Centre’s independent arthouse cinema

By Kat Peberdy

The future of independent cinema in Plymouth is secure as Plymouth Art Centre’s unique arthouse cinema is to relocate to a new home and double in size at Plymouth College of Art.

The new 118-seat auditorium with a state-of-the-art sound system will open to the public on 10 January 2019. The venture can be announced after months of collaboration between Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth City Council.

The location of the new cinema will strengthen the city’s vision of a Culture Hub in North Hill. Situated close to The Box, a £37 million gallery and museum complex which will open in spring 2020 as the flagship building for the Mayflower 400 commemorations.

Chair of Plymouth Arts Centre's Board of Trustees and Principal of Plymouth College of Art, Andrew Brewerton, said “Moving from the Looe Street address is emotional for many people, but the fact is that it is no longer fit for purpose. Audiences are the heart of Plymouth Arts Centre and the thing that drives it forward.

"It will continue to be run by Plymouth Arts Centre’s Cinema programmer Anna Navas and the team from Plymouth Arts Centre, who will take special care to bring the quality and breadth of films, friendly atmosphere and grown-up cinema experience with them.”

The 61-seat cinema in Looe Street enjoyed a record year in 2017, with nearly 18,000 admissions across 135 films. Its live event cinema, film festival, and regular talks by internationally renowned film makers such as director Ben Wheatley, and Oscar winners Roger Deakins and Mia Bays continue to build in popularity.

Roger Deakins CBE at Rebel Film Festival, hosted by Plymouth Arts Centre in 2018

Plymouth Arts Centre recently showcased yet another sell-out summer season of Open Air Cinema at iconic waterfront locations, Tinside Lido, Mount Edgcumbe and Royal William Yard and plans to continue to do so in the future.

"Plymouth Arts Centre has always been an important bastion of independent film culture in Plymouth and the South West providing access for residents and communities to the rich range and diversity of world cinema. At a time when we are seeing growth in audiences and strategic investment for independent film it is exciting to hear of these plans for Plymouth Arts Centre’s development which will secure the future of independent cinema in the city.” Mark Cosgrove, Cinema Curator at Watershed in Bristol and BFI FAN Film Hub Lead Organisation for the South West.

In recent years, Anna Navas and the cinema team from Plymouth Arts Centre have developed a national reputation as champions of gender equality in the film industry, as an early adopter of The F-Rating and Birds Eye View’s Reclaim the Frame. They have also taken the initiative for younger audiences to independent cinema by introducing a popular £4 ticket price for those aged 25 and under.

Tim Bolton, Vice Principal at Plymouth College of Art, said: “Plymouth College of Art shares many fundamental values with Plymouth Arts Centre and we have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship spanning numerous years. We welcome this opportunity to continue to collaborate with them, to enrich the arts and cultural fabric of the South West.

“We’re confident that the new, enhanced space will improve the viewing experience for cinema-goers, and hope that together our shared resources will enable Plymouth Arts Centre to continue their mission to bring independent cinema to the city.

“This will certainly benefit all students of Plymouth College of Art and neighbouring students at the University of Plymouth, and we also expect that our proximity to The Box, when it opens, will enable us to give whole new audiences access to the kinds of independent, arthouse cinema that Plymouth Arts Centre do so much to champion.”

Audience enjoy a film at Plymouth Arts Centre's Looe Street cinema

Plymouth City Council has been working with Plymouth Arts Centre to help them shape and develop their new direction. As well as offering advice and support, the Council has awarded the organisation a Social Enterprise Investment Fund to undertake the necessary refurbishment and a short term loan.

Councillor Pete Smith, Cabinet Member for Culture said:  “Plymouth’s arts landscape is constantly evolving and the city has seen a 30 to 40 per cent increase in Arts Council funding overall over the last few years.

“We’ve been keen to help Plymouth Arts Centre forge a new direction as it is a valued contributor to the arts and culture offer in the city. They have already taken cinema outside into some stunning locations across the city which has helped reignite people’s interest in an alternative and independent cinema offer.

“This move to Plymouth College of Art at Tavistock Place fits our vision of for making the North Hill area the cultural quarter for Plymouth. It is already home to The Box, which will be a museum and contemporary arts centre of national significance, The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art and the University of Plymouth, which includes the Arts Institute (formerly Peninsula Arts) and The House."

The withdrawal of the Art Council’s NPO funding for the Arts Centre in April 2018 put extreme pressure on all areas of the charity’s organisation. The new plans are the result of months of work by the Board of Trustees and partners to create a sustainable future for the organisation.

The cinema will continue to operate at its current home in Looe Street until the beginning of December 2018, with an exciting programme full of the latest releases and arthouse films scheduled for its audience to enjoy which can be booked here.

Plymouth Arts Centre has nurtured art and artists for 70 years, and before that the Looe Street site enriched the lives of many through the benefaction of Nancy Astor.  It was one of seven arts centres set up around the country in 1947 with funds from the newly established Arts Council of Great Britain. Beryl Cook had her first exhibition at Plymouth Arts Centre in 1975 and other artists who have held exhibitions in Plymouth Arts Centre include Marina Abramovic, Patrick Heron, Tracey Emin, Peter Greenaway, Vong Phaophanit, Richard Deacon,Malcolm Le Grice, and Sir Terry Frost.

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