18-wheel cinema from Scotland to Afghanistan

By | November 19, 2007 2:01 am PDT

Screen Machine

If you can’t get people to the cinema, bring the cinema to the people. More specifically, wheel the cinema to where people are, however remote and inhospitable the region. That is how the Screen Machine Mobile Cinema has come about:

It consists of an articulated unit, the trailer of which expands and unfolds to provide a 102 seat self-contained cinema. The Screen Machine provides conventional up-to-date 35mm screenings of recent movies, with full digital surround sound, air conditioning, comfortable raked seating, and full disabled access. It can also provide video projection and PowerPoint conference facilities.

The 18-wheels of pure celluloid delight was born out of the French Cinemobile venture (that has also been deployed in rural Ireland) and implemented by the various Scottish regional arts and culture bodies, with sponsorship from the RBS (formerly Royal Bank of Scotland):

The Screen Machine was developed by Highlands and Islands Arts Ltd (HI~Arts) to serve the communities of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. This is an area greater than Belgium, making up more than 50% of the Scottish land mass, but with only 0.6% of the UK’s population: 368,000. There is only one community in the entire area—Inverness–with a population of more than 15,000. Apart from Inverness, there are full-time cinemas only in Kirkwall (Orkney), Fort William (Highland), and Oban and Dunoon (Argyll). A new two-screen cinema recently opened in Thurso (Highland). Many island areas: the Western Isles, Shetland, most of the Inner Hebrides, have no access of any kind to 35mm cinema.

It recently made the local headlines in Harborough, one of the small towns that had lacked its own cinema.

The cinema will show films within two weeks of their release and there will be three different showings each day with popcorn and other snacks available.

It is hoped tickets, priced at about £6, will be available from various outlets in the district and through an online booking system on the Harborough cinema campaign website www.harboroughcinema.com.

Mr Campbell stressed the mobile unit will be a temporary measure and that it will leave as soon as a permanent cinema is up and running.

In the meantime he hopes it will show the viability of a cinema project to potential developers.

A list of films playing on Screen Machine 2 can be found here, where you will also find this video of the Screen Machine in action. There have been other examples of this concept coupled with digital or electronic screening of films, such as Mexico’s Cinetransformer and Norway’s Bygdekino.

The most recent beneficiaries of the cinema-to-you are the British soldiers deployed in Afghanistan’s notorious Helmand Province, who are hundreds if not thousands of mile from the nearest multiplex. From Rapid TV News:

For the difficult and dangerous job that they do, few people deserve a movie break as much as they do. Let’s just hope that they get popcorn and soda with it and don’t have to sit through 20 minutes of advertising at the start.

(If you have attended one of these screenings, whether in the Highlands, Islands, Helmand or elsewhere, we’d love to hear from you in the Comments section.)

Patrick von Sychowski
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Patrick von Sychowski

Patrick was a Senior Analyst at Screen Digest, went on to launch the digital cinema operations of Unique and Deluxe Europe, then digitised Bollywood at Adlabs/RMW, and now writes, consults and appears on panels about cinema all over the world.
Patrick von Sychowski
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