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Whiteladies Picture House – the rival plans

4 April 2014


Whiteladies Picture House owner David Lewin has slammed “the so called rival proposals” by the Whiteladies Picture House Ltd.

In a statement, he said:

  • They don’t own the building and therefore are not in a position to do anything with it
  • They have never made a formal offer to buy the building or provided any evidence of having the funding to do so
  • The building is not for sale as a contract has been signed with Everyman (read our story about Everyman in Maida Vale here)
  • The Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society has not agreed to object to our planning application, despite the public claims made by the Whiteladies Picture House group that it has
  • Our planning application is not, as Whiteladies Picture House group allege, a “Trojan Horse” application in order to just build the flats and not the cinema. This is a ludicrous suggestion as Bristol City Council’s planners would never allow it. I have no such intention and am happy to confirm this in writing today. I am legally bound to provide the cinema to Everyman after planning consent is granted.

Here are the Whiteladies Picture House Ltd’s proposals in full:

“We want to see cinema return to this site, regardless of who brings it back. However, of all the business plans we have looked at, this appears to make the least business sense and puts the cinema operator at such a disadvantage that we would urge everyone involved, including the Everyman Group, to scrutinise it in more detail.

“A major reason why no cinema operator has been found to take on 44 Whiteladies Road in the last thirteen years is because of the restrictive covenant that was left upon the building as a condition of the sale to Medinbrand. It prohibits “commercial cinema operators” from taking on the building unless they pay £1 million. This restriction is not the same for community, or charitable organisations such as ourselves.

“If the site was re-opened today as just a three-screen cinema, we believe it would struggle to match the three percent market share it had in 2001 as there are now more multiplexes in Bristol than there was then and the niche that Everyman would fit into is currently met by cinemas such as the Watershed, Orpheus, Odeon Broadmead, Curzon Clevedon, Arnolfini, and Cube. This is not to mention the additional pressure that the Cinema Market now faces from “home cinema” in the form of HD TVs, digital downloads and online streaming that have developed over the past ten years.

“It is for this very reason why we have proposed that the site not only show films, but offers alternative content such as live theatre, music and comedy. A diverse income not solely reliant on cinema tickets and concession sales has a much greater chance of success and is less likely to fall victim to the very same markets forces that forced this great building to close in 2001.

“What really surprises us about the Everyman proposal is that they are not buying this building, but according to their own statement submitted on 13 March by Group CEO Andrew Myers, spending £3 million on the renovation work and then a further £2.9 million over 25 years on leasing it. What business would spend £3 million on renovating an asset that will appreciate directly because of their hefty investment, but not buy it? Thanks to Everyman’s recent floatation on the AIM Stock Market they could easily afford the asking price, which is just a fraction of the £2.9 million they will spend renting it.

“The answer to this might be that Everyman expects Whiteladies Picture House to be astronomically successful and indeed, based on their own forecast, they expect it to gross in cinema ticket sales what half their cinemas combined sell in a year (source: Rentrak EDI), then why is their investment and lease dependent upon flats being approved and completed by February 17th 2015?

“Surely, if Everyman believes that this cinema will be extremely lucrative, then their offer would be to buy the building outright and it would not be dependent on the approval for six flats which benefits Medinbrand more, and has little or no bearing on their own business model.

“I believe too much emphasis on the viability of this deal is focused on the flats, which seems to be pivotal both contractually and commercially. This may also explain why Odeon have not been contacted re the restrictive £1m covenant, why a three screen cinema is being proposed at a site where it has already failed under more favourable conditions and why if the flats are not completed by February 2015, the agreed contract with the Everyman group will expire.

“We propose restoring the auditorium of the Picturehouse to its former glory because it is unique architecturally and offers a space unlike anything else in Bristol to host big film festivals, theatre productions, comedians and live music all in the same space, protected in perpetuity.  The current owner  wants to build six flats on it and divide up the rest of the building to fit three small cinema screens, which will destroy the heritage and repeat the failed business model that directly lead to its closure in 2001.”

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