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Regent Street Cinema Project - The Advanced Proposal

November 08, 2012

Regent Street Cinema Project - The Advanced Proposal


November 08, 2012



    INDEPENDENT CINEMA FULLY UTILISED 365 DAYS IN THE YEAR This project, unlike previous and other attempts, will not be:  All things to all people  A glorified University Film Club  Dependant on University finances or further marketing spend  A hindrance to timetabled lecturing The output as a result of producing the cinema in this manner will be a:  Much needed refurbishment of the seating, ventilation and foyer  High quality lecture facility; seats with tablets and unrestricted views  Fully commercial cinema operation, open 365 days in the year  High quality Bar/Café operation  A comprehensive schedule of events catering to students and industry The core cinema business model does not usually allow for a single screen cinema to be profitable. For this reason, raising finance from industry would usually be impossible. However this plan, being a unique balance between a teaching facility and a fully operational, commercial cinema, meets the University‟s needs in turning a modest surplus in even harsh trading conditions. We began, as a group with the intention to produce this cinema, with internal support in principle from The Westminster Film School, the Director of Finance and Dean of MAD, as well as the previous Vice-Chancellor and the Provost of the Regent Campus and Chair of the Board of Governors, who all kindly provided advice, encouragement and signposting. The cinema project was initiated by the urgent need for Film and MAD Students to get „real‟ exhibition opportunities in central London. This cinema will, without changing the current cinematic model, provide student and young filmmakers with regular exhibition every day of the year. The exposure that these students and the University would receive as a result, would be something they never afford or dream of. The effects of this sort of platform can be seen in Graduate Fashion Week, which we fully intend on replicating for Film and Visual Media, from the Regent Street Cinema. Beyond impacting on students, the site is situated opposite the UK Film Council, and is around the corner from the major west end production and post houses, filling a gap in the screening and conferencing room market. The space is currently used between 1-4 hours a day for 26 weeks of the year. This project will increase the efficiency of the space by an unrivalled factor.
  2. 3 TABLE OF CONTENTS Executive Summary 2 Outline 4 Background

    5 Historical Significance 6 Compton Organ 6 Advantages to the University 7 Capital Works/Fit Out Scheme 8 Operational Plan Target Audiences 11 Financials 12 Summary 14 Partners 15 Next Steps 16 Project Summary 17 Letters of Recommendation 18

    HUB FOR EXHIBITION, ENTERTAINMENT AND NETWORKING At it‟s core the Regent St. Cinema Project aims to do the following for the University, the local community and the London Film Industry:  Establish a unique cinematic venue at the location which birthed British Cinema. The history of the site is undeniable and validates this project as the most viable use of this historic space. To highlight this importance of the site, the cinema would be supported by a full schedule of festivals and regular events.  Pioneering film and cinema technology in partnership with the University of Westminster Film School, and other organisations and educational establishments. The Cinema space has always been the hub for technological developments in both the projected and moving image. We aim with this project, to restore the position that the site once held in the forefront of the visual arts and technological advancement. We aim to do this in partnership with the University‟s Film, Media and Science departments, and external industry partners in the relevant fields.  Provide student and experimental filmmakers with a hub for exhibition, networking and innovation. Screening facilities in London and the UK in general for young, experimental and independent filmmakers are seen to be lacking, the Cinema will be marketed as an Independent alternative to the multi-screen cacophony of the British exhibition industry.  Brought together various stakeholders to enable the rescue of this historic venue for the benefit of future students, and especially student filmmakers  Produced a costed plan that enables a fully functioning single-screen cinema to be refurbished and operated outside of University time- tabled lecturing To arrive at this point, we have involved and consulted the UK Film Council, Film London, London-based independent exhibitors and cinema owners, many independent Film Distributors in the UK and around Europe, but most importantly staff from within the University, to ascertain the best application for this historic space.
  4. 5 BACKGROUND There are approximately 40 screens servicing London‟s West

    End. The majority of these are in multiplexes. The remaining screens are programmed by either City Screen or the odd exception such as the Prince Charles Cinema which screens a select number of independent films. However these screens have not satisfied demand in recent times and their numbers are decreasing due to property development. All the distributors confirm that there is a desperate need for more screens in Central London which has reduced the screen life for many films. Demand for more screens is high from both Cinema goers and film distributors; there is certainly an opportunity for this screen to be more than successful. Digital film exhibition has reached a stage meaning a single screen cinema can be commercially viable and more importantly in the case of the Regent Street Cinema is desirable as the majority of new filmmakers work in this medium, and with less expense we can accommodate the widest range of cinematic programming. Beyond regular programming, the site can offer a high quality screening and conferencing theatre for the creative industries situated in close proximity. The West end and Soho areas of London are the centre of the media world in terms of post production, effects and commercial design. Ironic really, as the cinema helped birth these particular industries. The Upper Regent St. location is one of the cinema‟s strongest assets with an estimated 6000 students on site with little else to do but study, a new social and entertainment venue will keep them on campus for longer. Then there is the tourist pull of Oxford Circus which means regular footfall to what will be a more reasonably priced, quality, cinematic venue. Student Filmmakers have limited exhibition opportunities, yet have to independently raise funds. The cinema will help raise awareness of new talent and ideas and bring them closer to industry – hopefully reinvigorating the apprenticeship ideals of the British Film Industry that are no longer in operation. We will do this by:  Screening student shorts and trailers amongst the commercial trailers  Hosting and participating in festivals and special events catering for young filmmakers  Producing Graduate Film Week, in collaboration with others, in the mould of Graduate Fashion Week Previous attempts to restore the venue have overreached. The previous Head of Marketing, Development and Communications produced a Heritage Lottery Funding bid for over £4m which was rejected. The failed project attempted to be
  5. 6 all things to all people. This lack of focus

    on the end goal has been carefully regarded during the development of our project. We have very specifically gone through all the notes and forms produced by the previous projects, and consulted widely with film industry professionals. As a result, we have received strong recommendations for the viability and desirability of this project. HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE The cinema was the site of the Lumiére Brother‟s first demonstration of their Cinematographe in the UK, making it the birthplace of Cinema in the British Isles. Prior to this it was a global hub for projection technologies, magic lantern slides and ocular curiosities at what was then know as the Royal Polytechnic Institution. Later in its life it operated as a fully working cinema known as the Regent Street Polytechnic Cinema, and later as the Cameo Poly, which operated up until 1981. The site was also host to the world‟s first photography school and the UK‟s first film school, and is the spiritual home to the Magic Lantern Society and the Pepper‟s Ghost Illusion. The Bfi library was also originally launched at 307 Regent Street. THE COMPTON ORGAN One of three remaining Compton Organs in London that are still in their original location (Recently refurbished) is prominently placed within the space. The 2Manual/6Rank Compton cinema organ was installed in the Regent Street Polytechnic's Cinema in 1936. It is playable today thanks to Peter Hammond of HWS Associates who repaired it after the organ fell into disrepair - http://www.hws.org.uk/. It is intended to play the organ to silent films on a regular basis – Silent Sundays. Pepper‟s Ghost first Performed here - 1862/3 Britain‟s first film school established here -1933 The National Film Library held it‟s first public screening here, 21st Feb 1936 Lumiere Brothers‟ demonstrate Cinematographe Interior remodelled Last used as a commercial cinema Cameo Poly 1896 1923 1930’s 1980 2001 2005 1860’s 2007 2009 Intended opening of the Regent Street Cinema Idea for Regent Street Cinema put together Engaged with Architects for for feasibility Refitted as the Polytechnic Theatre Compton Theatre Organ installed - 1936 Compton Organ restored – celebrated 15th Feb 2006 with Lord Mayor Opening 2008
  6. 7 ADVANTAGES TO THE UNIVERSITY The cinema would firstly raise

    the Public profile of the building. The project would refurbish an essential learning space, which would include desired facilities that were previously lacking for lecturing: Chilled ventilation/air conditioning, Sturdy tablets that fold away into seat arms. The potential synergies with courses would make the space hugely beneficial in attracting new students to MAD – Film School, Animation, Contemporary Media Practice and SSHL – Language Schools, as well as a new outlet for student‟s creative works and ideas. By keeping students on Campus through having a high quality social space such as this, will make the campus feel more like a University, where the students treat the site with greater reverence, as they did in the days of the Polytechnic. Future partnerships will be better facilitated through having a high profile public venue on Regent St. such as this. Higher profile lectures and events venue bringing not only esteem to the University but also potentially greater visitor numbers and applications. The re-opening of such a highly respected and historic site would create a regenerative impetus for Upper Regent Street, bringing greater footfall to the area. Through our scheme mentioned above where we bring Students closer to industry, the site can create opportunities where there were none, and positively affect change in the lives of the University‟s students. Making better use of a valuable space in its current down time makes economic, managerial and creative sense. If the site is unused and has the capacity to not only create events, but also to inform, educate, and inspire, outside of time tabled lecturing, then it makes sense to utilise this asset in this manner. Increasing the number of corporate clients and having more people passing through the University’s doors will only benefit the University, the project has a low buy-in – there are very few risks to the University, and having a cinema on this site is a very sensible way of creating exposure and attracting students, the public, potential investors or corporate clients.
  7. 8 CAPITAL WORKS/ FIT OUT SCHEME The following is a

    list of the Capital Works that would be required to turn the site into an operational Cinema:  Frontage – Canopy, Interactive elements, Windows  Box office/Foyer  Bar/concessions area  Seating – Floor raking  Projection Equipment  Sound and Lighting  Toilet facilities  Ventilation  Possible extra internal decorations Total capital cost estimated between £1.25-1.5 m1 Further to the summary above, the frontage will be improved with a canopy (iron and glass) with a statue perched atop so that those walking beneath can peer up through the glass to view the statue. Lighting and the windows will be better utilised to catch the eye and provide information to tempt passers-by through the doors. We intend on introducing interactive elements to the frontage, initially in the form of optical illusions such as kaleidoscopes and derivations of the Pepper‟s Ghost Illusion. The Royal Polytechnic and its previous incarnations were famous for hosting various cutting edge experiments and we feel it is fitting to bring back some of that magic within the frontage and hopefully within the foyer and bar areas. Within the foyer, a box office will be surrounded by walls of information; projecting the history of the site, the significance of various events and of course the current and future events that people can view and/or participate in. These walls may or may not be utilising digital signage. Using digital signage, we believe, is the future; it is easier to manage and provides for greater levels of content. The grey doors leading to the cinema would be removed and replaced with many of the old wooden doors that have been removed and kindly kept in storage by the Campus Services Manager, Vince Gwiazda. This would make for much better aesthetics. Ideally the doors would be removed entirely, but fire safety regulations may require doors to be in place. The cinema is currently entered via two doors, either side of a curved wall at the top of stairs leading from the foyer. This wall will be removed and reinstated further back into the cinema (the exact mark is in line with the support beam directly after the door leading into the cinema from the main campus). The 1Specific Costs and Scheme to come with procurement of architectural feasibility
  8. 9 reasons for this are two-fold. The cinema and the

    University require a bar/cafe to provide concessions for the cinema and an added level of provisions for the students studying on campus. The second reason is those seats that are located in the space the bar/café area will occupy offer a restricted and poor view to the stage/screen and therefore are not realistically useable. Removing these provides for a good viewing opportunity for all that purchase tickets/attend lectures and also gives space to a valuable concessions area. The existing seating arrangement causes the campus staff a lot of grief. The flat floor with loose, stackable seats is very time-consuming to maintain, and also lacks the basic student need of a writing tablet. The seats on the upper level are in poor condition and are in need of replacement. The refurbishment of the seating comes at an ideal time for the University. It is planned to go into the floor on the lower level, realise the depth that is available below the current floor level and rake up and backwards, so that the sight lines are improved for all on the lower level. The upper level‟s stadium seating arrangement will require the staggering to be extended for better leg room. Considering the timber construction, this will not be difficult. Seating will be of a high quality, examples of which can be found in the Cambridge Picture House, and will be sourced from a supplier who can provide foldable writing tablets within a fold down recess in the right arm of each chair. The Projection Box will be extended to the right (looking from the back towards the screen), to allow for a single digital and two 35mm projectors. There is direct access to fresh air behind the existing projection box, which adequately provides for the heat dissipation requirements. The UK Film Council has already expressed interest in finding funds to provide a digital projector, so that the Regent Street Cinema can plus into the UK Film Council‟s Digitial Screen Network (DSN). Projection will be onto a new motorised screen, which we hope can be future proof, to allow for 3D films. Generally the screen would need to be silver and sit as close to the proscenium as possible (if not in front of the proscenium – as is the case at The Electric Cinema on Portobello Road). The current screen is only suitable for rear projection of a low resolution, and is therefore not useful for much more than PowerPoint slides. Sound and lighting need to be improved in terms of technology and sound damping features on the walls. A balance will need to be struck so that lectures are still sound clear. Lighting can be much improved to not only improve the ambience in the space, but also provide varying levels of lighting, which currently are only adequately programmed. To cater for the increased footfall, and to allow the cinema to operate independently of the University, the toilet facilities within 307 Regent Street require reinstating. Vince Gwiazda has kindly highlighted areas suitable for this,
  9. 10 as well as pledging the reinstatement of the Manager‟s

    Office for the cinema‟s administrative staff to operate from. Onsite staff recommended that a chiller unit be installed on the ventilation system, as students often complain that the space is unbearable due to heat in the Summer months. This would require a Electrical and Mechanical survey to be conducted, prior to any planning, however the cinema does have its own plant room to draw from. The space is currently in adequate working order, and underwent decorations approximately five years ago. We recommend updating the decorative scheme, in line with the aims of the cinema operation, however there is not too much that would need work.
  10. 11 OPERATIONAL PLAN – TARGET AUDIENCES The cinema itself would

    operate during the evenings, weekends and outside of term time, which coincidentally is when it would be most profitable. The switchover between lecturing and the cinema operation would be seemless and has been discussed at great length with the site's current buildings management. Students would constitute the core demographic of the Cinema, they are obviously the most local and, globally the largest cinematic audience is ages 18- 25. The films played would cater towards this audience and would offer theme nights and events pertinent not only to media students but to all students. By offering year long passes during Freshers and Re-Freshers weeks we can sell bulk blocks of tickets and in turn offset other costs in the running of the Cinema. Local residents make up the largest audience for single screen cinemas, yes there is the argument that not many people live in upper Regent St. but the working population is very large and encompassing. We would offer discounts for local residents and have membership options based on the schemes already in place by other similar sized cinematic operations. This includes annual or lifelong Membership, regular special offers with local businesses for members and other perks. As a venue for Corporate hires, the cinema has the potential to operate between the large Leicester Square venues and small Soho screening rooms, which is the optimum level for most media and film related screenings. For events and speaking engagements, a refurbished, public space would create more bookings and attract more hires. The potential for investments and partnerships is large. Tourists are obviously a huge market, especially in the area surrounding Oxford Circus which is not served by any other cinema. The added pull of the site‟s historic importance will also aid in visitor numbers.
  11. 12 OPERATIONAL PLAN - FINANCIALS Financially, the University would be

    paying a minimal share of costs for the refurbishment, the body of which would be taken up by external partners who would effectively underwrite the ongoing cinema operation. The risks are minimal to the University, as per the request of Phil Harding who placed three conditions on the project from the outset: 1. The operation of the cinema does not displace current and future timetabled lecturing 2. Outside partners contribute some costs to the capital works 3. Someone other than the University underwrites the cost of the ongoing cinema operation RSC Profit & Loss Income 2009* 2010 2011 Ticket Sales 491,400 532,350 573,300 Advertising 10,000 14,000 18,000 Private Hires 17,550 26,550 26,550 Season Passes & Membership 1,000 2,500 4,000 Concessions/Bar 122,850 143,325 163,800 Total Sales Income 642,800 718,725 785,650 Expenditure Staff 200,200 206,206 212,392 Distributor Fees 158,266 170,122 182,515 Concessions Purchases 30,713 35,831 40,950 IT (EPOS) 10,000 10,000 10,000 Marketing 20,000 25,000 30,000 Office Sundries 2,000 1,000 1,000 Back Office (Accounts, HR, PAYE) 18,000 18,540 19,096 Utilities 3,000 3,300 3,630 Cleaning 18,000 18,540 19,096 Insurance/Security/Maintenance 20,000 21,000 22,050 Professional Services (Legal, Audit) 10,000 10,000 10,000 Depreciation (initial fit out + IT equip) 30,000 30,000 30,000 Tax (VAT) 95,736 107,044 117,012 Total Expenditure 615,914 656,584 697,742 Profit/Loss 26,886 62,141 87,908 Amount in GBP *Projections calculated with the assumption of a full year‟s trading On the next page are the assumptions and workings for these figures:
  12. 13 Ticket Sales 3 shows a day Seats Occupancy Ave.

    Price Total pa 300 25% £6.00 £491,400 300 25% £6.50 £532,350 300 25% £7.00 £573,300 300 25% £8.00 £655,200 300 25% £9.00 £737,100 320 25% £6.00 £524,160 Concessions/Bar - Based on ticket sale admissions figures 300 seats, 25% occupancy, 3 shows, 365 days a year Average spend per admission Annual Spend £1.50 £122,850 £1.75 £143,325 £2.00 £163,800 Private Hires average 3 hour bookings, charged per hour Frequency Rate - ph Adjustment for ticket sales loss Total pa 5 £600 -£450.00 £8,550.00 5 £750 -£450.00 £10,800.00 5 £900 -£450.00 £13,050.00 10 £600 -£450.00 £17,550.00 10 £750 -£450.00 £22,050.00 15 £600 -£450.00 £26,550.00 15 £750 -£450.00 £33,300.00 25 £600 -£450.00 £44,550.00 Staff Manager/Marketing x2 @ 30k £60,000 Bar x2 @ 25k £50,000 Usher/Tech x2 @ 18k £36,000 Usher/Tech x2 @ 18k £36,000 Accounts Assistant x1 @ 18k £18,000 The calculations are based on an average occupancy level of 25% of a 300 seat capacity, for 3 shows each day of the week. This translates into 1,575 seats filled per week, and 81,900 per annum. Obviously, outside of term time and on the weekends, there would be more than 3 shows per week. Comparative cinemas in London charge upwards of £8.00 per ticket, with West End cinemas charging a minimum of £10 per ticket. We have calculated these figures with the intention of keeping the prices significantly lower than levels we feel are extortionate. This also provides for very competitive pricing to attract increased occupancy.
  13. 14 OPERATIONAL PLAN – SUMMARY Financial projections have been produced

    to factor in higher than usual operating costs, and the low end of the projected revenue streams. These figures have been checked and approved by numerous industry professionals including cinema operators, the UK Film Council and the film distributors we have been in conversation with. Bearing in mind the pessimistic calculation of the figures, the operation is still projected to produce a financial surplus and therefore is likely to not be a liability to the University and its external partners. The core ideas that will facilitate that ongoing financial success of the project are as follows: The Cinema is set up as a Not-for-profit charity organisation, with all surpluses ploughed back into cinema/events and the maintenance of the space. Links with industry, are to be facilitated by regular events. E.g. Silent Sundays, magic lantern shows, Film and new media festivals, as well as technological seminars and demonstrations. Bringing students closer to industry and providing them with much needed exhibition. Our plan to have student short films, animations and trailers alongside commercial trailers as well as regular short film events will create opportunities, forge links and create discussion. The Bar/Concession area will be a social space for students during university hours and then a fully equipped cinema venue offering pre and post film concessions, drinks and discussion. There is the potential for partnership in daytime offering – e.g. Hummus Bros or evening unique offers – e.g. Coffee Menu. We aim to create a venue similar to the bar at the Curzon Soho - a fully equipped cinematic meeting place - to come and be creative in. Partnerships for commercial private rentals are another aspect to the Cinema‟s potential operation e.g. Hotels, local media industry.
  14. 15 CURRENT PARTNERS IN CONVERSATION Westminster Film School UK Film

    Council/Film London The Cinema Theatre Association Tony Jones (Founder – City Screen) Joost Hunnigher (ex UOW department head and chair of the CILECT research project into the future of digital cinema) City Screen (Largest Independent Cinema Operator) Peter Hammond (HWS Associates – Arts Heritage Consultancy) Film distributors: Pathé, New Wave & others OTHER POTENTIAL PARTNERS The Heritage Lottery Fund Prominent British Film Producers and Distributors Private equity specialising in film/cinema BFI Regent Street Organisation – Crown Estate Major Production and effects houses The Magic Lantern Society
  15. 16 THE NEXT STEPS Architectural feasibility - To demonstrate our

    vision to a wider range of investors, we need to have a costed capital works schedule We have engaged the leading architects in this field (3 firms have tendered) The cost for this will be £5,000 + VAT External partners and investors are paramount for this project to achieve its goals of connecting students with industry and operating a sustainable and profitable cinema. “It is imperative that the cinema has ties to industry, for this vision to be fully realised” We aim to have between 1 and 3 producers / directors / distributors as ongoing partners, already in conversation are: Tony Jones – one of the founders of City Screen and director of the Cambridge Arts Cinema and Cambridge Arts Trust. He also founded and operates the prestigious Cambridge Film Festival. Peter Urie – CEO of Metrodome, (who have already approached the University offering funding on the project – more information on Metrodome is attached in this package). We need to consolidate University Support. It is imperative that as many of the relevant internal groups and course leaders within the University embrace this project. Up until this point we have only come across a single individual with doubts, and even then, they were not about our plans for the Cinema, they were about our personal demeanours. She had to admit our project aims for the Cinema were sound.
  16. 17 PROJECT SUMMARY Birthplace of British Cinema Home for future

    student, young and experimental film makers 300+ seat theatre fully refurbished Digital projection – with two supplemental 35mm projectors Regular events programme with a focus on innovation and technology and cinematic history and development, including, Silent Sundays (with organ accompaniment) and magic lantern shows Interactive Frontage – nobody should be able to walk past without wanting to look in Future proof ticketing and seasonal passes Student shorts and trailers before the main feature, industry links and talks at the forefront Not for profit Operational advice has been sought from many current and previous cinema operators Costs have been over-estimated and revenues under-estimated There is no better use of the space than what are envisioning for it with this plan. It is realistic, future-proof, innovative, relevant and focused
  17. 18 METRODOME is a publicly listed, independent all-rights distributor, in

    business for over 10 years. It acquires films and other product for exploitation in cinemas, on DVD and via broadcast. The principal activity of the Group is the licensing, marketing and distribution of feature films, television and video programming primarily through Cinemas, DVD and Video on Demand channels. Metrodome has earned a reputation for acquiring and releasing quality independent films that challenge audiences and provoke critics; from box office smash hits: Monster and Donnie Darko, to the Academy Award winning The Counterfeiters, and Academy Award nominated Away From Her, Days of Glory and Water. Alongside their high profile theatrical titles, Metrodome's award-winning Home Entertainment department also releases new films, classic cinema, documentaries, animation, stage adaptations, television programming and historical drama. Metrodome‟s overall theatrical gross to date is £18.5 million and their overall DVD sales to date are 15 million units. The company has an excellent reputation in the industry and has become a specialist in releasing left handed, independent, art house films. THE REASON METRODOME WOULD BE BEST SUITED TO THIS PROJECT Metrodome is ready to buy its own cinema The Imagina group has taken a 61.4 per cent stake in Metrodome through its MediaPro arm. The Imagina group is a European leader in the audiovisual industry with a group turnover of over €800m in 2007. The most relevant aspect of MediaPro is an entertainment arm that includes production; film distribution and a European cinema operation. Metrodome CEO Peter Urie is working on deploying capital for growth propositions. Peter wants to use the funds to invest in the business and realise his ambition to become the number one art-house film distribution company in the UK – An area where Metrodome has proven credibility. In 2007, the business had turnover of £6.24m and losses of £680,000. This year it is forecasting a profit on sales of £7.5m. The Company is ready for expansion in this and other markets. The Regent Street Cinema is a natural fit for a company that specialises in independent film with its‟ location, user base and history. And in return Metrodome brings a proven name, portfolio, and distribution network.