Highland communities are saying goodbye to the old and embracing the new as one historic cinema in Caithness is being torn down while another is plotting a major expansion.
Demolition works have commenced in Wick to flatten the former Pavilion cinema, which was later turned into a nightclub, in the heart of the town.
Known locally as Dominoes, the “eyesore” building on 30 High Street has lain derelict for more than two decades after a mysterious fire in 1996 left the popular attraction in a state of ruin.
The building is one of two properties being torn down in the area, in an effort to offer new spaces for other developments.
Gail Matheson, the chief executive of the Highland Housing Alliance (HHA), said her firm was “delighted” to be clearing the sites.
She said: “It will be good to see the sites cleared to allow further community-led regeneration of the area.
“HHA is grateful to Highland Council and Scottish Government for making the funds available.”
The property is being flattened following the safe removal of all debris and contamination before the land is placed into the hands of the Wick Development Trust.
Nicola Sinclair, local councillor and acting chairwoman of the Trust, said: “It has been a long time in the planning and we were hoping that the demolition would follow quickly after the purchase of the two sites by Highland Housing Alliance.
“This will give the local community confidence that we are intent on moving forward with the regeneration of the town centre even while we are in the midst of exit from Covid lockdown.”
The project marks a major milestone in the town’s regeneration project which aims to connect the centre of Wick with the harbour and surrounding river areas.
Councillor Willie MacKay added: “This is a giant step forward in the Wick town centre regeneration plans. A lot of hard work has gone into getting the money to have this eyesore cleared and tidied up.”
As Wick residents mark the end of an era, film buffs in the north are looking forward to a greater range of movies as work progresses for three new screens at The Merlin cinema in Thurso.
The transformation from two screens to five is expected to increase capacity from 416 to 636 with the new theatres due to be built in the old bowling alley.
Two of the theatres will seat around 100, while the third will be a more intimate space for around 40, complete with armchairs and table service for drinks and snacks.
Merlin expects the new facilities will be ready to open in the autumn.
Merlin took over the Ormlie Road cinema in 2013, and company director Craig May said the decision to expand was a “no-brainer”.
He said: “It was a bold move by the company to dip its toe in the water so far away, but the cinema has done really well, with great local support and a great management team.
“The Thurso audience has shown itself to have very broad tastes.”
The plans were masterminded before the pandemic, however Mr May confirmed the additional space will help them cater for social distancing at big blockbuster movies, such as the new James Bond film expected in November.
The news comes as Vue cinema in Inverness prepares reopen its doors following a five-month closure…