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Highland cinema highlights love local in action

The story of how a stunning cinema was created and has thrived in a Highland has been hailed as an inspirational example of love local in action.

Businessman Angus MacDonald, the award-winning entrepreneur behind the venture, shared the venue’s journey at the annual general meeting of Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP).

STP, the go-to body which champions the nation’s towns and places, is the organisation behind the Scotland Loves Local campaign, as well as Scotland’s Improvement Districts and a range of other initiatives.

Mr MacDonald described how he took a neglected town centre site in the centre of Fort William and transformed it into Highland Cinema – creating a real hit with audiences from far and wide which has proven a considerable pull to the town.

Those gathered at STP’s AGM in central Edinburgh heard how the attraction was built on the former site of the town hall and a previous cinema which closed in 2005.

Opened in 2020, it was designed to reflect a traditional bothy. Its warm, welcoming entrance and café bar was built using local stone and features a red corrugated roof, covered terrace, wood burning stove and seating for up to 84. 

Its café offers a wide range of food, 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 a state-of-the-art cinema, with two screens, comfortable seating, custom tartan wall fabrics and an unusual addition in Screen 1 – seating in a Lotus Elan car.

“We show blockbusters the same day as they’re released in Leicester Square,” Mr MacDonald told STP members.

And, while bringing the biggest films to Fort William, he explained the cinema’s aim is to be a destination for so much more – from Scottish Classics, indie and arthouse films, to “event cinema” (such as opera, ballet, plays and music), plus live music and events.

Mr MacDonald also enthusiastically answered questions from the audience about the work to create the cinema, its launch, continued growth and plans for the future.

His presentation formed part of the AGM highlighting Love Local In Action.

STP Interim Chief Officer Kimberley Guthrie said: “The story of Highland Cinema is an inspiration in so many ways, showing what can be achieved by someone with a love for their home community and with a vision for creating a community and commercial success. He certainly had our audience gripped – and it’s hopefully a real-life plotline that our members can take some nuggets from.

“Our thanks go to Angus for taking the time to share his insight with us in his own very engaging style.”

The AGM also featured updates by Kimberley and STP’s Chair, Professor Leigh Sparks, on the organisation’s work over the past year and its plans for the upcoming 12 months.

It was held in the wake of the first Scotland Loves Local Week, more details about which you can find here.