OPERATING IN HARMONY AS A CONSTRUCTIVE LEARNING FACILITY
AND 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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Executive Summary 2
Historical Significance 6
Compton Organ 6
Advantages to the University 7
Capital Works/Fit Out Scheme 8
Target Audiences 11
Next Steps 16
Project Summary 17
Letters of Recommendation 18
TO PROVIDE BRITISH FILMMAKERS, PROFESSIONAL AND STUDENT,
WITH A 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
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
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
Brought together various stakeholders to enable the rescue of this
historic venue for the benefit of future students, and especially
Produced a costed plan that enables a fully functioning single-screen
cinema to be refurbished and operated outside of University time-
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 -
Britain‟s first film
The National Film
Library held it‟s first
here, 21st Feb 1936
Last used as a
1896 1923 1930’s 1980 2001 2005
1860’s 2007 2009
Intended opening of
the Regent Street
Idea for Regent
Refitted as the
Compton Theatre Organ
installed - 1936
Feb 2006 with
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
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
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
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.
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
Seating – Floor raking
Sound and Lighting
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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
2. Outside partners contribute some costs to the capital works
3. Someone other than the University underwrites the cost of the ongoing cinema
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Regent Street Organisation – Crown Estate
Major Production and effects houses
The Magic Lantern Society
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
“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
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.
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
Future proof ticketing and seasonal passes
Student shorts and trailers before the main feature, industry links and talks at
Not for profit
Operational advice has been sought from many current and previous cinema
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
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
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
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.