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Screen Machine mobile Highland cinema that visits Sutherland is saved

By Iona M.J. MacDonald

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Mobile cinema: The Screen Machine.
Mobile cinema: The Screen Machine.

Highland mobile cinema, the Screen Machine, has been saved – for now at least – after securing £350,000 of funding for the next two years.

That's thanks to funding from Screen Scotland.

The Screen Machine is a much-loved facility in communities across the Highlands, giving those in rural areas a cinema they would not usually have access to. It has operated for the last 25 years.

News came in September that the mobile cinema would be taken off the road due to the vehicle's lease coming to an end.


This sparked fierce a campaign to save the cinema, with backing from Oscar-winner Dame Judy Dench, politicians, and local communities.

Now the immediate future of the Screen Machine has been secured, as operator Regional Screen Scotland has secured £350,000 to keep it going for another two years.

However, the charity is still looking to raise £1.4m, for a new custom-built mobile cinema.

The Screen Machine service has brought the big screen experience to communities from Barra to Bettyhill for 26 years. In that time it has travelled over 250,000 miles – the equivalent of ten journeys around the world.

Simon Drysdale, interim chief executive officer of Regional Screen Scotland, said: “We are immensely grateful to Screen Scotland for demonstrating their continued support for Regional Screen Scotland and the much-loved Screen Machine by funding the fee to extend the lease of the Cinémobile for a further two years beyond April 2024.

"This means our customers can be confident that they will continue to have access to the big screen until at least April 2026. We have already made great progress in lobbying for support to commission the build of a brand new Screen Machine, which we intend to bring into use no later than April 2026. This progress is largely down to efforts that our customers made in writing to their MSPs and other elected representatives, to tell them how much they love and value the Screen Machine.

"We are very grateful for all of the letters, emails, conversations and phone calls that have been sent or made on our behalf – your hard work is starting to pay off! We would urge our customers to continue to contact their local councillors, MSPs and MPs to impress upon them that the long-term future of the Screen Machine will only be secured when the new mobile cinema is commissioned. Fund raising for the new, permanent Screen Machine is our mission over the coming months.”

Sambrooke Scott, Screen Scotland, said: “This interim solution ensures continuity while RSS strives to secure a permanent replacement for the beloved Screen Machine, and Screen Scotland are fully behind those efforts. Our funding not only extends the Cinémobile lease but also bolsters the resilience of RSS and helps the efforts to secure a new facility from April 2026 onwards.

“Screen Scotland’s commitment to the Screen Machine service and the communities it serves remains unwavering. But I want to underline that to be sustainable in the longer term the Screen Machine should be supported by the local authority areas that it serves, as well as by Scotland’s national screen body.

“We’re proud to support the continued efforts of Regional Screen Scotland in maintaining access to the full cinema experience through the lease of the Cinémobile.”

Find out more about where the mobile screen will be.

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