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Whiteladies cinema 'could reopen within months'

26 June 2013

Whiteladies Picture House could reopen as a cinema within months of its acquisition, say campaigners who have raised £10,000 to save the Clifton landmark.

Through an online appeal, not-for-profit company Whiteladies Picture House Ltd called for donations with the aim of redeveloping the former ABC cinema.

The funds will pay for surveys to assess the state of the building, as well as three pieces of artwork that will showcase its future potential.

The hand drawn pen and ink pieces will be produced over 300 hours by artist Jonathan Lees.

Having yesterday hit its £10k target five days ahead of schedule, the company hopes to take control of the building as soon as possible, and part-open it as a cinema a couple of months later.

The team hopes to ultimately redevelop the building, which has been empty for more than a decade, into a space for multiple uses. This will include a cinema, theatre, comedy club, live music venue, restaurant and roof terrace bar.

Company founder David Fells told the Bristol Post: "We are hoping to get the artwork finished by September, and these will be used as the basis for grant applications and in funding stream meetings.

"We are hoping to purchase and refurbish the building. The time from when we take control of the building and opening could be very short.

"We could use it first as a film space when it’s still derelict, and then slowly move on with the restoration.

"It would be years until the building was fully refurbished, but we could open as a cinema within a couple of months. Initially it would not have a regular programme, but we would have special events, say, twice a month.

"This would bring in revenue to help pay for further costs, but more importantly it would allow people to come in and enjoy the space, and see it in its raw state and be involved in the transformation".

The former ABC cinema is on Bristol City Council's "at risk" register for listed buildings. Planning permission to convert the space into homes and a 24-hour gym was turned down by the council last July, following objections by campaigners. The decision was upheld by a Government inspector at a public inquiry in March.

Whiteladies Picture House Ltd yesterday exceeded its £10k target five days ahead of schedule. Open for donations until Sunday June 30, the online page at fundraising website Kickstarter has now secured £10,332 from 314 backers.

Mr Fells added: "The public support has been phenomenal. It’s great to not only meet the target but to meet it with a couple of days to spare.

"The basic concept of how the Picture House should be reused as a multi-use space was my idea three years ago, although others have had the same idea.

"When the flats idea was rejected last year we thought this was the time to move."

Asked how much it will cost to refurbish the Picture House, Mr Fells said: "There’s a lot of debate around the cost. I don’t think anyone has a clear idea of what state the building is in, and therefore how much it will cost.

"After the survey, they will have a much clearer idea."

To find out more about Whiteladies Picture House Ltd click here

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