Why a refit?
This Screen Machine, the second to bear the name, was launched in 2005 and has been in continuous operation ever since, except for breaks over Christmas, and a biennial maintenance visit to the fabricators, Toutenkamion, in France. In those 12 years the Screen Machine has driven the equivalent of 8 times around the Earth, which is almost as far as to the moon!
The original capital funding was based on an assumed lifespan of ten years, which the Screen Machine has long since surpassed. In 2016 the Screen Machine’s owner and operator, Regional Screen Scotland, undertook an Options Appraisal which concluded that, for the foreseeable future, and despite all the innovations in online access, the Screen Machine would remain the only practical means of bringing new cinema releases, and the highest quality shared screen experience, to Scotland’s most remote communities. A full refit would therefore be a cost-effective method of ensuring that the service could continue to be delivered to those communities for years to come.
The Screen Machine has not had a full repaint job of its exterior since it was launched in 2005. Our original livery design is therefore now looking a little tired (35mm film is so last decade!) and some parts have been changed so often that ‘ghost’ images are showing through.
So, look out for a clean, fresh, new exterior design by Highland-based designer Tristram Woolston, laid on top of a complete new paint job. When looking for the Screen Machine, you can still watch out for a big blue box, but with a subtly different shade of blue.
A bright new auditorium
We’re not just repainting the interior, but also adopting a new colour scheme. And all of our 80 seats have new seat covers. And we’ve replaced the screen with a new version that will be brighter and more reflective. Our house lights have been upgraded to allow us to subtly change the lighting levels without any risk of flickering.
New digital projector and server
Digital projectors are marvellous, but unlike the mechanical 35mm projectors which preceded them, they do have a limited lifespan. We installed our projector in 2008, when digital projection was just taking off, and at that time no-one could say for certain that this new technology would survive being shaken about in the back of a truck! In the event, it’s survived remarkably well, but there are some problems appearing that will only get worse over time, and at almost ten years old, the projector is in any event nearing the end of its expected lifespan. The new projector, supplied by our long term partners Sound Associates, will also be brighter and clearer, and the server that goes with it will have a much greater storage capacity, so we’ll be able to tour with a much wider range of film titles and, for example, be able to bring back films that have built audience interest slowly (like, say, last year’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
What you won’t see
The most crucial part of the refit has taken place out of public view, on the underside of the Screen Machine, with a complete overhaul, sandblasting, and repainting of the hydraulics that operate the opening and closing mechanisms for the Screen Machine. These are the parts that, without this work, would have started to fail on a more and more frequent basis. The Screen Machine spends a great deal of time on board ferries, and parked up at coastal sites, and that’s really bad for corrosion.
This is why the refit had to be undertaken in France, by the original builders, Toutenkamion, who not only know the Screen Machine intimately from its biennial maintenance visits, but also have the experience of building and maintaining many other ‘cinemobiles’ and other unfolding vehicles, around the world. This crucial work should extend the full operational life of the Screen Machine by a minimum of six years, hopefully much more.
Something Old, Something New
The Screen Machine will continue, as always, to tour the best of new cinema releases to our extensive circuit of locations across the North and West of Scotland. But, in the months prior to coming off the road for the refit, we’ve been experimenting with using the Screen Machine in many different ways. So, in the normal evening programme slots, you can expect: more ‘encore’ screenings of theatre and opera, captured ‘as if’ live; more archive events building on our successful 2016 partnership with curator Shona Thomson, Made on Our Land; and more independent and world cinema screenings along the lines of I, Daniel Blake and The Eagle Huntress. There will also be more daytime events, partnering with bodies like Alzheimer Scotland and Into Film to present special group screenings for older people, and for school pupils. And before our main features, we’ll be presenting more on-screen versions of photography exhibitions, in partnership with Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow.
Behind the Scenes
We’re entering into a new relationship for our film programming and booking, by contracting the INDY Cinema Group (formerly known as Film Mobile Scotland), who already provide regular programming for several towns across Scotland, as well as touring projection equipment to some 20 community venues. By being part of INDY’s much larger community we should be able to get earlier access to big new movies, closer to their original release date.
Where to find out more and buy tickets
Our box office system, provided by Veezi, will remain unchanged, but we’ve developed a completely new Screen Machine website, with many new features, much more content, and more scope for audience interaction. For a few weeks we’ll be running the new and the old websites in parallel, and customers will be able to use either to book tickets, but we hope that you’ll give us your thoughts on the new website so that we can tweak it and remove any snags before we finally take the old one offline.
And we’d like to thank…
The refit has been made possible by grant aid from Creative Scotland’s National Lottery Funding, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston Community Company, and by sponsorship from the Royal Bank of Scotland. These bodies also all support the ongoing operation of the Screen Machine, together with Caledonian MacBrayne. Over the coming months we’ll be running a Sponsor a Seat campaign to build up capital reserves for future improvements—more details coming soon.