They have appeared in two James Bond movies and their makers have won the Formula One World Championship seven times.

Now a Lotus sports car is being specially commissioned as part of a new cinema, which the serial entrepreneur behind the project hopes will help boost a Highland town’s lockdown recovery.

Millionaire businessman Angus MacDonald has footed the entire cost for an independent cinema in Fort William, as a “gift” to the Lochaber area where he grew up. The town has been without one for 15 years.

Mr MacDonald, who now lives in Roshven, near Arisaig, says research had shown that the two things that can help regenerate struggling high streets are a cinema and a book shop. 

HeraldScotland:

He opened the Highland Bookshop three years ago in the town centre and says the business has “flourished.”

The new two-screen cinema will screen 10 films a day opening with the same blockbuster films as London's Leicester Square, according to the businessman. It will also include an 84-seater restaurant and events space, which he hopes will boost tourism and help draw local people back into the high street.

It is also thought to be the first cinema in the UK to incorporate a real car into the seating area for an authentic “drive-in” experience. 

"I wanted to give something back to the town."

The businessman was staying tight-lipped on the design of the Lotus, which will be unveiled two weeks before the cinema opens in mid-September.

Lotus has previously found success in Formula One racing, via Team Lotus, and the cars famously appeared in the James Bond movies The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and For Your Eyes Only (1981).

Mr MacDonald made his money buying and selling four major Scottish companies and is also a published author. Last year he sold an Edinburgh-based waste management firm in a reported £25.8 million deal and was awarded an OBE for services to the Highlands.

READ MORE: Why Scots towns are ready to fight back from the effects of the pandemic

He said: “My family have been here for a thousand years and I’ve had a great career and I wanted to do something for my home town.

“I read an article in an American newspaper many years ago which said what revitalised a market town centre was an independent book shops and a town centre cinema. We opened the Highland Bookshop three years ago and it’s flourishing. 

“The next stage was the cinema and I was determined to have the best place in town and I persuaded the owner of the business on the existing site to sell to me. It is the site of the original town hall. 

“A large part of my vision was not so much to provide entertainment for the town but for the building to become the hub of the town and to try to bring people back into the high street.

“I see it as more than an cinema but as a cultural centre. There will be stages to host music events and mountain biking events and such like.

“I always wanted it to be big enough to host Scottish Ballet or opera events. 

"There’s a real opportunity for Fort William to become a cultural centre in the West Highlands.”

HeraldScotland:

Mr MacDonald appointed Glasgow and Skye-based architect Dualchas for the project. The company was launched by identical twins, Alasdair and Neil Stephen, who wanted to help halt the population decline of the Highlands by creating more, affordable housing. They were also the first architecture practice in Scotland to develop a modern longhouse, considered the earliest structure in many European cultures.

READ MORE: Scotland's 'urban buy-out' could be blueprint for towns

Mr MacDonald said: “I wanted something very traditional. I used the old village hall in Onich as the design I wanted to follow. The cinema will have two screens, one seating 100 people and one for 65 and we will be showing the same blockbusters as London’s Leicester Square the day we open.

“We also have a Lotus car being made for us which is a bit of a coup. It’s a real car, everything is the same except it will be cut off behind the seats and bolted to the wall. "Two people can sit in it.

“The virus has put us back about four months and we now expect to open in mid-September.”

Mr MacDonald said moves are afoot for further improvements to the Fort William high street, which in common with others has suffered the loss of independent businesses, becoming over-subscribed by outdoor clothing stores.

He said: “If we can get 10 or 15 more shops in the high street full of things that people want to go to then the town will become much more 
vibrant. 

“We have a really good Chamber of Commerce and the mood I’m getting is that we can revitalise the town. We have a lot going for us, the bones of the town are good."