Oban cinema plans kitchen, showers and genderless loos

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Oban’s Phoenix Cinema should be ‘more like a community centre’, according to plans unveiled at its AGM on Monday.

‘We are looking to take the cinema in a new direction,’ its new funding development officer Louise Glen told members, some of whom paid £1 to join and enter the AGM.

Ms Glen said the cinema hopes to increase the number of film-goers and the building’s uses. ‘A cinema should be much more like a community centre,’ she said. ‘It should be like a church.’

The plans, which had been ‘five years in development’, would progress in stages, and include moving the second, smaller screen to make way for a bank of genderless toilets, a hut for micro-businesses outside, and showers to capitalise on the new pontoons nearby.

The first phase would be replacing screen two with the toilets, she said. ‘We are close to the pontoons, so it might be good to offer shower areas in the cinema as well. The whole front area will be opened up, and we will finally have our disabled entrance.’

A second phase would install a pull-down screen for screen two, with room for 54 or more seats. ‘You will feel like you are in the film, you will sit so close to the screen,’ she said, adding there would also be a kitchen and ‘community space’.

A subsequent phase alters screen one, installing all tiered seating for 200 to 250 people. Currently there was ‘too much leg room’ between the rows, Ms Glen said, adding: ‘If you have been to other cinemas you will realise seats are very close together so people feel they can jump into the screen.’

Some seats at the front would be on rollers to make way for a dance-floor area. ‘The stage will be maintained, and that will give us the option of Oban Phoenix Nights,’ she said.

A later phase addresses the building’s front, which would include a shop window. ‘We want it to say, “This is an amazing place, the result of a lot of hard work”,’ she said.

In the disused area at the side of the cinema, it is hoped to build ‘a beach hut area’ as a hub for micro-businesses, with wifi and an eco-heating system.

‘We also need to increase the number of people who come at ambient times during the day and late at night.’ Tuesday and Thursday afternoons have been designated as ‘no shoosh sessions’, when film-goers can bring their babies.

‘I have been in post for 12 weeks and in that time we have already reduced our waste by encouraging people to bring their own cups, and getting rid of single-use plastic,’ she said. ‘We have moved onto paper bags for popcorn and glassware for drinks.

‘The cinema does not get any funding from any external body,’ she said, but added it does have a number of interested backers.

‘Every cinema in the UK suffered last year due to a lack of good blockbuster films to show people.’

Cinema manager Jennie Larney said: ‘It looks a bit shabby. We have got a lot to do but we are ready to do it.’

Ms Glen added: ‘We can only do that if people support the cinema. It is something to be really, really proud of, but it could be something that dips if not taken care of.

‘Come in and chat about how you want to see the cinema taken forward.’

Earlier the AGM heard chairman Grant Nicholson was unwell so there was no chairman’s report. There were also no treasurer’s or secretary’s reports this year because the positions were vacant.

Any questions from members or the public had to be submitted to the secretary in writing two weeks before the AGM, according to the agenda.