A SCOTTISH cinema saw its busiest weekend matinee in a very long time, according to a protest organiser.

They said residents, students, and other supporters showed up en masse throughout the day to show their support for The New Picture House cinema in St Andrews.

The 92-year-old picture house – the university town’s only cinema – has been purchased by a US company looking to transform the venue and create a premium sports and entertainment facility.

American superstars Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake are shareholders of US-based Nexus Luxury Collection who announced the plans in October. It already operates in New York.

READ MORE: Scottish cinema in Tiger Woods takeover 'cannot continue' as is

The company has confirmed it is moving forward despite community backlash. 

Ash Johann Curry-Machado, 22, one of the event organisers and the president of  St. Andrews Film Society, said that he set out to prove to the cinema owners and Fife Council that New Picture House – as it is – has a future.

“Let’s show our love, appreciation and commitment by filling those seats and making a statement – St Andrews deserves its cinematic heartbeat and we’re here to make sure it thrives,” an advertisement from the organisers said.

According to Curry-Machado, a “huge group” of people gathered outside the cinema at 1.30pm when it opened on Sunday, and by 5.00pm he said “huge queues” of movie-goers were waiting for tickets. 

The National: From left to right: a former New Picture House projectionist; Aurelie Coop, one of the student event organisers, North East Fife’s MP Wendy Chamberlain, and Ash Johann Curry-Machado, a 4th year student and event organiser. 

“Everyone was having a good time and showing exactly why the cinema matters to people. The community really showed that the cinema is crucial to them and they can’t bear to see it go,” he said. 

The cinema’s managing director David Morris – who was not at the event – said that occupancy rates were still less than 20%.

“We would like to thank all those who attended the cinema on Sunday. However, despite the concerted effort to ‘fill every seat’, we recorded an occupancy rate of less than one in five seats taken up (18.5%),” he said. 

“While positive and greater than our current occupancy of under 10%, this really serves to illustrate the challenge not only to our cinema but also to the sector as a whole.” 

He continued: “The cinema has not been viable for the past number of years, a situation which the owners simply cannot continue to manage without significant new investment. This intervention by T-Squared not only allows a cinema offering to be retained for the town, but also preserves the building itself.”

Curry-Machado has been at the forefront of campaign efforts to save New Picture House from closure or redevelopment since the redevelopment was announced last autumn. His online Change.org petition has garnered more than 11,700 signatures to-date. 

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Sunday’s show of support was the latest effort to keep the cinema as it is for St Andrews – and Curry-Machado still believes there is hope for his beloved picture house. 

“The wealth of evidence we got about what people genuinely think and feel [about this redevelopment] is absolutely enough to send to Fife Council,” Curry-Machado concluded. 

“I think we have a strong case on our hands to fight the development plans. It’s very evident that people don’t want this to happen. And it would only serve to drive people out of St Andrews as opposed to attracting more people which is what the plans are supposed to be doing.

He continued: “I think we can prove to them that approving development plans would be very counterintuitive to the benefit of St Andrews.”