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Crowds flock to live cinema screenings

Caithness Courier

Live theatre and opera being beamed on to the big screen is accounting for over 1000 extra tickets sold a month at the most northerly cinema complex on the UK mainland.

Thurso Cinema has been blown away with the success of broadcasting live events to the Caithness public, with the latest being special screenings of the 50th anniversary show of Doctor Who on Saturday.

Despite not all live events being a success, the majority have sold out and the cinema is looking to bring more theatre productions to the big screen.

By the end of the year, it is estimated live events, such as theatre and opera productions, will account for over 12,000 ticket sales annually.

The success of live events was emphasised with the cinema enjoying the 46th biggest audience out of 250 cinemas across the UK for Andre Rieu - Home for Christmas.

Thurso Cinema was also ranked in the top 125 out of 400 venues nationwide for broadcasts from the Royal Opera House.

Owner Rob Arthur said demand for tickets for the Royal Opera House production of The Nutcracker on Thursday, December 12, has been so great he is considering broadcasting the performance on the cinema's second screen simultaneously.

"Caithness has reacted hugely to opera and theatre performances being screened at Thurso, bigger than we ever thought," he said.

"They are coming from far and wide to see these shows, and we are getting large audiences.

"The way we operate is we try to promote these shows six to eight weeks in advance. Some productions only give you two weeks' notice but there is no point in promoting a show in such a short space of time.

"We aim to charge the minimum price we can for these shows and that is what we've done."

The income for screening live events is over 10 times more than what Screen Scotland predicted it would generate, with the original estimate being an extra 1000 tickets a year.

Thurso Cinema played host to sell-out crowds on Saturday night when it screend the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who with two shows.

Fans of the TV show came along dressed as their favourite characters and one staff member even brought their Tardis to work.

Mr Arthur said the success of Doctor Who had not gone unnoticed at BBC Worldwide after speaking to its head of finance, whose wife comes from Thurso.

"The BBC were delighted with the response at Thurso Cinema as one of their remits is to engage with communities better," he said, adding that the showing attracted people aged as young as 10 right up to those in their 70s.

"As a result of these live events, we are attracting new customers who have never been to the cinema before," he stated.

"The market is changing. People don't just want their cinema to offer films and we will be looking to offer more live productions in the future."