‘Extraordinary’ 100,000 cinema visits in Mareel’s first year

Gwilym Gibbons is delighted with the number of people using Mareel's two cinemas.
Gwilym Gibbons is delighted with the number of people using Mareel’s two cinemas.

Shetlanders are continuing to flock to Mareel’s two cinema screens in huge numbers, with over 100,000 tickets now sold since the first screening just over a year ago.

That makes an average of more than four visits per islander since 31st August 2012. According to Shetland Arts, the figure is more than double the 39,000 attendances aimed for in the 2008 business plan for the venue’s first year.

The 100,000th ticket holder won a special prize: a year’s free gold card subscription entitling them to unlimited films at Mareel. The winner was announced at Thursday night’s Home Made, a screening of short films made by Shetlanders that was shown as part of the annual Screenplay festival.

As a “special surprise” to celebrate surpassing 100,000 cinema attendees, Shetland Arts has put films up until 19th September on sale early – allowing customers to book tickets for the next fortnight in advance.

Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons said: “We would like to say a huge thank you to the cinema-going public of Shetland. The level of attendance is extraordinary when we consider the number of visits that is per head of the population.

“We’re delighted that the level of cinema attendance has been sustained beyond the ‘honeymoon period’ of the first few months of opening last year, with Despicable Me 2 (which opened on 28th June) being our second busiest week of cinema since we opened.”

It is expected that trustees will shortly approve Shetland Arts’ annual accounts for 2012/13, the first financial year in which Mareel has been open.

Cinema and music venue Mareel.
Cinema and music venue Mareel.

When those figures are published, it should give a clearer idea of how the £13 million cinema and music venue has affected the arts agency’s financial position.


Add Your Comment
  • ian tinkler

    • September 6th, 2013 13:43

    I await the huge profit announcement with baited breath. Pay back time?

  • Peter Smith

    • September 7th, 2013 1:38

    As I recall, there were three main financial planks to the business case for Mareel; Cinema attendances of 38,525 and on average a musical event every two days with an average paying audience of 186 and the cafe/bar generating £400,000.

    It is interesting to note only one being reported. I can accept that maybe the accounts have yet to be done, but if the figures for the cinema are available, so are the figures for the musical events.

    Maybe now is not a good time to hold your breath Ian.

  • Susan Edwards-Horton

    • September 8th, 2013 7:32

    As anyone done a survey as to how many of the visitors are from the outer Islands in particular Unst and Fetlar where commuting requires 2 ferries? I would be interested to know as to whether the outer Islands are enjoying the Mareel as much as those who are based on the mainland. It would be useful to collate these figures along with comments from the Islanders to ascertain how they view access to the facilities which are meant for all. The figures and comments could then be used positively to encourage alterations in ferry contracts, Mareel opening hours, discount schemes (it is more expensive in time and fares for Islanders) or the possibility of transmitting the films via links to the outer islands community halls.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 8th, 2013 9:13

    It would also be interesting to have an idea how the provision of tunnels to Yell and Unst (maybe Fetlar, someday, too) would impact on isles people’s access to Mareel and other centralised facilities. It would seem obvious that communication would be greatly enhanced.

    Some, of course, might prefer to maintain some insulation from Mainland excesses to preserve the islands’ character and it would be interesting to hear about that, too.

  • Iain Adam

    • September 8th, 2013 11:37

    100,000 visits – that is good news.

  • ian tinkler

    • September 9th, 2013 13:12

    Gwilym, states, 100,000 visitors to the cinema, Mareel exceeds all expectations! O dear me, why do I feel this is just another Gwilym Gibbons, good news, PR ploy, before the begging bowl goes out again. This man has been quite extraordinary in endless statements of how well the Mareel project was progressing from day one of the project. He has never once apologised for what now are very many statements about virtually every aspect of this project, from its inception, endless delays and overspend. I hope I am wrong but somehow I do not believe a word this man states does not have a propagandist and manipulative reason for its utterance.

  • Chris Grant

    • September 9th, 2013 17:09

    It’s very easy to dwell on the issues that Mareel has had since it’s opening and forget to celebrate the successes – if part of the business is working, hopefully that can have a knock on effect to some of the failing aspects.

    it’s a lot easier to say ‘this doesn’t work’ than well done.

    Clearly the cinema works.

    So well done, that’s great news.

  • ian tinkler

    • September 10th, 2013 8:54

    May it not be prudent to sell off the cinema as a going concern and commercial success, which would allow the bail out of Shetland Arts at no cost to the rest of us? After all, the showing of films is hardly creating any kind of art. I understand that creative art, pertaining to Shetland, was originally the primary purpose of Mareel.

  • Harry Dent

    • September 10th, 2013 10:47

    “May it not be prudent to sell off the cinema as a going concern…”

    Perhaps we could be watching films in the Serco Cinema…

    No thanks!

    The success of the cinema should be seen as a step in the right direction for a community asset, not an opportunity for this or that company to make money for its corporate shareholders.

  • Ian Tinkler

    • September 10th, 2013 13:46

    Harry, it is not so much a case of making money. More a case of paying back some of the money lost to date, by this project and Shetland Arts. Shetlanders do not have bottomless purses; Mareel has cost and is still costing a small fortune at a time we can ill afford it. Now, how about a little pay back, after all the Cinema is not creating any art, only showing the creativity of others. It could (the cinema) do that far more efficiently under competent commercial management, without being used to prop up Shetland Arts with their dismal management record and poor judgement as shown to date… Corporate Shareholders risk their own money; Shetland Arts and Mareel squander ours. How many millions so far? Now, how many more millions?


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