New Life for the Screen Machine

Regional Screen Scotland, which operates the Screen Machine, has raised the necessary funds to carry out a major refit of the cinema vehicle, which will add a minimum of six more years to its operational life.

The Screen Machine is the UK’s only full-time self-contained mobile cinema, bringing the latest cinema releases to communities across the North and West of Scotland.

The Screen Machine service was originally launched in 1998, and the current Screen Machine has been on the road since 2005, spending up to 48 weeks a year bringing the big screen experience to communities from Barra to Bettyhill and from Brodick to the Outer Isles of Orkney.

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Now Regional Screen Scotland has secured funding from the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and sponsorship from the Royal Bank of Scotland, to meet the costs of a full and thorough refit, to be carried out by the Screen Machine’s original builders, French-based Toutenkamion, world leaders in mobile cinema design and construction.

Robert Livingston, Director of Regional Screen Scotland, said: “The aim is to carry out the refit at Toutenkamion’s French workshop in April/May 2017, and relaunch the fully renewed Screen Machine in June.

“It will then resume its normal touring circuit and audiences will be able to enjoy the customary wide choice of new films, as well as extras such as photography exhibitions and archive screenings, knowing that the Screen Machine will be fit to continue full operation well into the next decade.”

The Screen Machine is an articulated tractor and trailer, which uses hydraulic systems to expand the trailer to be able to accommodate an audience of 80 in multiplex-style comfort.

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These hydraulic systems are subject to considerable wear and tear, as the cinema is set up and dismantled three or four times very week, and the Screen Machine travels regularly on ferries, and is often set up on sites fully exposed to salt and sea air.

Without this refit, the Machine would become subject to an increasing number of breakdowns, and would be unlikely to be able to continue full operation for more than another year or two at best.

The refit will thoroughly overhaul all the operating systems, replacing all worn parts, treating any areas of corrosion, and giving the entire exterior fresh coats of paint. This will also allow for a smart new livery to be applied, thanks to sponsorship from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Screen Machine is also supported by Highland Fuels and Caledonian MacBrayne.

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Jennifer Armitage, Screen Officer at Creative Scotland said: “This timely refurbishment will extend the Screen Machine service so that cinemagoers in some of the most remote parts of Scotland continue to enjoy a high quality cinema experience as well as an ever expanding programme of film.”

Regional Screen Scotland will also be drawing on its own reserves to replace the Screen Machine’s digital projector.

Like many ‘first generation’ digital projectors, this is nearing the end of its useful life—an issue which many cinemas across the UK are now facing.

In the case of the Screen Machine, it’s been a credit to the robustness of the projector that it has withstood eight years of being driven around some of the most winding and bumpy roads in Scotland! But the new projector will also provide audiences with an even sharper and clearer viewing experience.