In a difficult year for the film industry and movie lovers, a scenic corner of Scotland offers some rare good news. The brand new, purpose built boutique Highland Cinema located in Fort William, Scotland, opened its doors on September 25th, with two screens and a café bar, bringing cinema back to the heart of the Highlands for the first time in 15 years.
Famous for providing majestic backdrops for films including “Harry Potter”, “Braveheart”, “Rob Roy”, “The Dark Knight Rises” and Bond films “The World Is Not Enough” and “Skyfall”, plus many others, the Highlands is home to some of the most rugged and beautifully cinematic scenery in the world. The new Highland Cinema aims to reflect this, showing a variety of Scottish classics alongside Hollywood blockbusters on release day, arthouse, indie and event cinema, as well as playing host to festivals, events and live music, providing an eclectic, exciting new destination for locals and tourists alike.
Owner, entrepreneur and author Angus MacDonald (57) lives in Lochaber, with a family history in the area going back centuries. “Several years ago I read an article that said the best way to bring life back into a small town was to have an independent bookshop and a cinema. Two years ago I opened a bookshop. Today I am very pleased to have been able to open our fantastic new cinema!”
Built on the former site of the town hall and a previous cinema that closed in 2005, the new Highland Cinema has been designed to reflect a traditional bothy, the humble building that has sheltered travellers across the Highlands for centuries. The warm, welcoming entrance and café bar has been built using local stone and features a red corrugated roof, covered terrace, wood burning stove and seating for up to 84. The café offers a range of food from gourmet pizzas to charcuterie, pastries and more, while the bar provides a carefully curated selection of fine Scottish whiskies, gins and beers, plus wines and hot and cold drinks.
The back of the building houses two state-of-the-art cinema theatres with cutting-edge laser digital projection and sound systems, delivering a highly immersive experience for all audiences. Screen 1 has a capacity of 109, including two unique seats in a real red Lotus sports car donated by a local businessman. Screen 2 can take up to 62 guests.
Originally set to open in May 2020, the Highland Cinema was delayed earlier in the year due to Covid-19. Construction began again in July, with final details and charming touches added in the last weeks leading up to the opening on September 25th.
“Our aim is to bring a smile to people’s faces on even the wettest day, to be a gathering place for youngsters and the elderly, and to provide a range of films to please and interest a broad spectrum of visitors. We have Covid-19 procedures in place to ensure the comfort and safety of all our guests and staff, and we’re very excited to welcome guests in to see new films like “Tenet” and “No Time To Die”, plus classics like “The 39 Steps”, “Whisky Galore!” and many more showings and events!”
About Those Behind Highland Cinema
Angus MacDonald, OBE was brought up in Glencoe and has always lived in the Highlands. He was/is an entrepreneur, with businesses in publishing, online recruitment and education, recycling and renewables. He founded The Caledonian Challenge and Moidart Trust. His wife is Michie – together they have four adult sons.
Fort William is a town on the West Coast of Scotland and gateway to Ben Nevis (the UK’s tallest mountain. The town and surrounding area of Lochaber are recognised as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’, with a population of 20,000. Annual tourism exceeds 440,000.
Fort William / Lochaber has not had a cinema since 2005, when the previous ‘Studio Cinema’ situated on the same site as the new Highland Cinema, closed down.
The nearest other cinemas are in Oban, which is a 90 minute drive South of Fort William, and Inverness, which is a two hour drive North.
Key sponsors of the Highland Cinema are Mowi Scotland and Alvance Aluminium. BSW donated the timber. Due to the Alvance sponsorship, locals will receive a 30% discount card during the off season.
The Lotus sports car was donated by Ivor Dunbar.
The cinema will employ 25 members of staff all year round.
The professional team were Dualchas Architects, Galbraith, David Narro, Harley Haddow, ARC, Sandy Brown, and Hamish Bell. 3b Construction were the principal contractors.