Chair of trust says cinema was never properly funded, but hopes to reopen with Welsh Government support.
The business plan behind the crisis-hit Scala cinema was wrong from the start, says a former board member.
As the Prestatyn cinema closed today amid “desperate” cash problems, Cllr Huw Jones, who is also Denbighshire’s lead member for tourism, leisure and youth, said those running the venue had failed to “capture the market”.
But the chair of the Scala says the centre never had sufficient financial support to get started, and hopes to have the doors open with Welsh Government help by the end of the month.
Supporters of the Scala made a last-ditch plea for help today in a “final attempt” to save it. The Scala Trust was told in October that it would be losing its funding from Denbighshire council this year.
Cllr Jones said: “I used to be on the Scala board years ago to try and help them turn things around, and when it was first opened I don’t think their business plan was right then.
“The people of Prestatyn have ben very supportive of it, but they haven’t captured the market right.
“It’s a very valuable asset to the town, and we are committed as Denbighshire County Council to keeping the place open.”
While the Scala Trust hope to continue running the cinema, Cllr Jones says the council is already looking at a possible future for the centre without the existing trust.
He said: “We bent over backwards to try to help them, but the business plan didn’t quite work out, did it?
“We’re pursuing other avenues to keep the provision open in Prestatyn.
“They’re still working on a rescue plan and hopefully that might work out, but it’s a bit of a sad situation.
“The ongoing uncertainty of the future of the company running the Scala has been of great cause for concern for some time, and it looks as if the doors may be closed for a while.
“My worry is that this uncertainty may be damaging for the future planning for the cinema.
“If it turns out that the Scala board’s final rescue attempt is unsuccessful, we will do our best to find an alternative provider.”
Rhiannon Wyn Hughes, who chairs the Scala Trust, said: “It’s never been properly funded since the building was built.
“Places need a bit of support at the beginning and that hasn’t been there. We’ve brought in a lot of funding, but it hasn’t been enough.
“We’ve made staff redundant this morning. There were only five left, but it’s very upsetting. They’ve all really committed to the place. There have been a lot of tears.
“We’ve closed the door, but that means the trust is still in control of the building, so we’ll spend two to three weeks trying to put together a financial package.
“We want to clear a lot of creditors and start with some money in the bank, which we haven’t really had before.
“We want to stop lurching from crisis to crisis, which we have done for the last six years. That’s not a way to run a business.”
Denbighshire County Council have loaned the Scala £80,000 on a long-term basis, given them a grant of £40,000 each year, and covered their wage bill for two months, although the grant was set to be withdrawn in April.
Ms Hughes said: “The council have taken all our money away, but the Welsh Government have been great. They’ve been working with us, and we’ve welcomed their support.
“We want to clear our debt to the council. We owe them this loan which we have five years to pay.
“The council have a lot to lose if we don’t reopen. £140,000 is a lot of public money, which is why we feel so strongly about reopening.
“There’s also £40,000 outstanding to other creditors, and we’ve tried to make sure individual traders are paid.”
Source: Daily Post News Article 08.01.15 by Josh Morris