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Glasgow arthouse cinema to become the next Netflix

IT opened its doors in its original incarnation as Scotland's first dedicated arthouse cinema 75 years ago today.

Clockwise from main Glasgow Film's Jaki McDougall; the GFT's early incarnation; Scarlett Johansson in Under The SkinMain photograph: Martin Shields
Clockwise from main Glasgow Film's Jaki McDougall; the GFT's early incarnation; Scarlett Johansson in Under The SkinMain photograph: Martin Shields

Now the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT) is embracing modern technology by launching an on-demand Netflix-style service which will showcase Scottish films to audiences around the world.

The player will allow anyone across the globe to stream Scottish features and short films to their computer, tablet or mobile phone for a fee. At the moment the content is being kept under wraps.

Jaki McDougall, chief executive of Glasgow Film, which comprises Glasgow Film Theatre and Glasgow Film Festival, said the plan is to launch the service in September.

She said: "We are currently developing a public-facing video on-demand platform for Scottish features and short films.

"We will be looking to clear worldwide rights to get Scottish culture out there, so that anyone can access our Scottish films.

"It would be fabulous for people who want to see the films, but are living in Australia or wherever. This is also about getting our Scottish films into festivals."

The GFT player was trialled around 18 months ago, allowing access to a selection of international films to audiences at home, but was limited to features with UK distribution rights.

McDougall said it had proved popular with those who are unable to go to the cinema, such as parents with young children or those with disabilities.

"In terms of access, not everyone has a GFT on their doorstep and some people who do have GFT on their doorstep don't get out as often as they might want," she said. "The feedback we got was they just really appreciated the GFT player."

McDougall said that while on-demand movies are available from services such as Netflix or Amazon, the audiences appreciated the "curated" programme which was offered via the GFT player.

"People have a trust in what we show at GFT and appreciate that signposting when there is so much out there," she added.

The GFT, which is registered as a charity, first opened as the Cosmo Cinema on May 18, 1939, before later being rebranded as the Glasgow Film Theatre on May 2, 1974. It opened a third screen last November and now attracts more than 180,000 admissions a year, equating to more than double the average attendance per screen in the UK.

A fundraising campaign is under way to raise money to replicate a butterfly staircase which used to be in the original foyer of the cinema, with the redesign also allowing a lift to be installed to improve accessibility to the upper floors.

In February, the Glasgow Film Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary, with highlights of the programme including the UK premiere of Wes Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and the Scottish premiere of Under The Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson.

The festival attracted 41,541 admissions, its highest-ever number - up 6% on the previous year.

McDougall said the festival was now acknowledged as an important date in the film industry calendar for the launch of movies. She said: "They like to put their movies in front of a real audience and Glasgow Film Festival is an audience-focused film festival.

"In the old days, the music hall acts would be quite scared to come to Glasgow because of the highly critical audience. Now film distributors really respect that - they call it the 'Glasgow Effect'."

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