Cinema firm all set to bring movie nights to Wick

17th April 2015 from John O'Groat Journal 17/04/15

The silver screen is set to return to Wick in the latest initiative spearheaded by the operators of the cinema complex in Thurso.

In what is believed to be the first venture of its kind anywhere in the UK, Thurso Cinema owner Rob Arthur is in advanced talks to establish a 130-seater auditorium in the Pulteneytown Centre to bring the latest blockbuster releases to people in east Caithness.

The new movie theatre, intended to open three days a week, would complement he established two screens in the Ormlie Road venue, which Mr Arthur reopened nearly three years ago.

He is confident of clinching a five-year deal with Pulteneytown People’s Project so as to get it up and running later this year.

“We’ve done a lot of research in to the plan and it’s a no-brainer – Wick needs a cinema,” said Mr Arthur. “All the feedback into the proposal has been that everyone thinks it’s a great idea. The deal has not been finalised but it is more than at the proposal stage. It is something in our business plan which we want to see happen. I’d love for it to happen in the summer, but it may be later in the year.”

A survey commissioned revealed that of the 55,000 cinema goers last year, only 58 per cent came from Thurso and the surrounding area. Customers from Wick and east Caithness, which included Lybster and Watten, accounted for 29.5 per cent, with 9.6 per cent coming from the Castletown Bower and Dunnet area. A further two per cent travelled from Sutherland to watch films.

The third screen is being lined up during Friday, Saturday and Sunday with expansion expected to create new jobs at the Pulteney Centre.

“As the Pulteney Centre is a multi-use facility, the screen would only operate at peak cinema times,” said Mr Arthur. “We will choose the films showing in Thurso that we know will have a market in Wick. There will also be the opportunity to show live cinema in Wick and kid’s films will also play a major part in the third screen. We can’t pick up all the films which are being released on just two screens at Thurso, so this will add choice to the county. This initiative is unique anywhere else in the UK – it is taking the cinema to the people as opposed to being in a fixed location.”

Mr Arthur said due to poor and expensive transport links between Thurso and Wick, there are a large number of people living in Wick who are missing out on going to the cinema. He feels there is a new audience waiting to be discovered with a third screen at the Pulteney Centre.

If the venture is a success, it could be a springboard to set up similar facilities in Sutherland with Brora and Dornoch being considered as possible sites.

“Transport provision is not great in Caithness and parents are obviously worried about kids going on their own to the other side of the county,” he said. “The cost of travel can be the same or more than the price of a cinema ticket and that is an issue for people living in Wick. The third screen at the Pulteney Centre will aim to eliminate that problem.”

John O'Groat Journal 17/04/15