By Ken Hay

TIME is fast running out. The Edinburgh Filmhouse building was proving unsustainable as a home for a diverse cinema programme, education work, fantastic visiting film festivals and industry events. The activity has become so successful that it has outgrown the building and it is goodwill and compromise that continue to allow us to operate in the space.  

  It may seem like a strange time to share ambitions for a new Filmhouse, revealed days before lockdown. But in many ways it is also incredibly appropriate. Never more have we needed a more sustainable and resilient future.  

 An absolute gem, Filmhouse is more than a building – it’s the fantastic and eclectic range of films, it’s the education events and learning opportunities, it’s the film festivals, big and small it hosts each year, and of course it’s the café bar – a place of refuge in a busy city centre. But at core, its success is based on its independence of programming, spirit and identity, and integrity in everything it does.

We’re the custodians of a vital part of Edinburgh’s cultural and social life and responsible for ensuring that it is able to thrive for many years to come.  

As we share the vision for the future of Filmhouse we seek to marry the affection for the current building with the belief that an independent cinema can be a bold, wonderful, and multifaceted – but not multiplex – venture.

People are the heart. Specifically, the people of Edinburgh. Public consultation could have been a tick-box exercise but that wouldn’t have been true to Filmhouse nor allowed us to listen to you. Covid-19 may have stopped us greeting you at Filmhouse to show you the 3D model, answer your questions and explore ideas. But this week we enter the fray of online entertainment with a different kind of offer, the online public consultation.  

We’re delighted that over 500 people have already shared their feedback through our online survey, the significant majority positive. Responses have made it clear that among the most important aspects are quality cinema spaces; a varied programme; better seats; accessibility; affordable ticket prices; modern toilets; friendly staff and that it doesn’t feel like a multiplex.

 But of course, with any building of scale and vision, this one designed by award-winning architect Richard Murphy, there are going to be those that aren’t persuaded at first glance. A contemporary oculus-shaped tower that seeks to enliven Festival Square, long the least successful public space in Edinburgh, its shape and size may seem to some incongruous. Inspired by the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, the Lightbox in Toronto and HOME in Manchester, we want to create a “temple to film” in Edinburgh which celebrates the most popular artform with a visionary space which demonstrates the city’s and Scotland’s commitment to film.  

It is, at its heart, about increasing access to film and inspiring learning opportunities for the people of Edinburgh by establishing not only wonderful new cinema spaces but a creative cultural hub with spaces for education, events, hospitality and professional development, that all combine to provide access to the very best in filmmaking, and reflect our commitment to accessibility, inclusivity and the environment. 

We are at the start of a process which will take around five years to complete and which starts here by listening to your feedback on our plans. We hope you can attend our online consultation sessions or write in with your feedback. Details at or register your interest at

Ken Hay is Chief Executive, Centre for The Moving Image (incorporating Filmhouse and Edinburgh International Film Festival)