HELENSBURGH'S only cinema will not be going away any time soon, according to the founder of the charity which runs it.

The pledge, from Brian Keating, comes amid growing concerns over the future of the big screen industry during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Cineworld - the world's second largest cinema chain - this week announced the temporary closure of all of its 127 UK venues after reporting a £1.3bn loss for the first half of the year because of the Covid-19 crisis. Meanwhile a quarter of Odeon theatres will only open at weekends due to delays in blockbuster releases.

However, Mr Keating, who operates Helensburgh's independent Tower Digital Arts Centre in Sinclair Street, as well as the nearby Scottish Submarine Centre, said he is hopeful of securing a funding support package which could enable the town facilities to re-open next month.

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He told the Advertiser: "We are not going away.

"We've applied to the Scottish Government's Independent Cinema Recovery and Resilience Fund [delivered by Creative Scotland] and are waiting to hear back on that this month.

"That is part of the re-opening process as the cost is significant, and then there are still issues with content as big films keep getting moved, like the new James Bond film.

"We're keen to get the place open before the end of the year even if it's only for a limited number of people.

"The Submarine Centre is in the same boat and there are still issues with volunteers, most of whom are older, while some of the younger ones have gone onto post-graduate studies.

"When we do open both premises up again it will be for a limited amount of people, with no food or drink being served, and it will be done by online booking only.

"Hopefully some people will be interested in coming."

The Tower and the award-winning Submarine Centre have been closed since March and Brian said he was reluctant to commit to a re-opening plan after seeing a previous target date of mid-September pass by.

He also stressed that the woes of the nationwide chains won't necessarily have any bearing on the Tower, or indeed Helensburgh.

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Brian said: "It's worrying for the industry but every cinema is different and every community is different. Every cinema has their own overheads, their own debts and costs and every different business has different variations.

"We took the decision early on to cut costs as quickly as we could and batten down the hatches to live another day, but we thought that day would've been before now.

"I don't think cinema will go away forever, I think there will be a big demand post-Covid and people will return.

"But the Tower isn't just about film showings - we put on 37 live events last year and the plan this year was to increase that number before everything shut down.

"A lot of stuff is completely out of our control but rest assured we would be open if we could.

"People love the Tower and don't want it to go away. The town didn't have a cinema for 50 years before the Tower opened and we worked for many years to get it open in Helensburgh.

"We weren't expecting something like Covid to happen, that wasn't in anybody's business plan, but we're doing our utmost to get back up and running again as soon as we can."

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