The popularity of Mareel’s two cinema screens is showing no sign of letting up.
Attendances have passed the 80,000 mark in the ten months since the venue opened – just over double the 39,000 projected for the first full year and the equivalent of three visits for every islander.
Shetland Arts is putting together its end-of-year accounts for 2012/13, which include the first year’s operating costs since the much-delayed, and over-budget, cinema and music venue opened in late August. Once published those accounts should give an idea of how successfully Mareel is performing overall and whether it will turn a profit for the arts agency.
In terms of attendance alone the cinema has surpassed all expectations. With the summer blockbuster season in full swing, films such as World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, and Monsters University, the sequel to Disney Pixar’s smash hit children’s film Monsters Inc, could push the first year’s attendance figure into six figures.
Shetland Arts marketing officer Lisa Ward said: “At around 10 months into business we have already more than doubled our projected cinema sales and seem to just be getting busier by the day. We are very happy to see the huge positive response to our cinema programme and look forward to a packed summer of films.”
She added: “We’d like to say a big thank you to our customers for supporting us and to our staff for their hard work.”
Mareel’s well-publicised construction problems took Shetland Arts to the financial brink, culminating in the SIC coming to the rescue with a complex £1.1 million package to purchase a 99-year lease on the North Ness building.
The organisation also borrowed £276,000 from Shetland Charitable Trust under its bridging loan scheme for capital works last summer. That amount has now been repaid, according to the papers for last week’s trust meeting – which showed 14 different projects have accessed finance from the charitable trust’s scheme.
Shetland Arts remains in legal dispute with contractors DITT over who is responsible for 18 months’ worth of delays and cost overruns pushing the total cost towards around £13.5 million.
But its chairman Danus Skene and director Gwilym Gibbons have both suggested that, once the capital costs are resolved, Mareel is on course to balance its books and may even turn a small operating surplus in the first year.