A Perthshire picture house which is battling to survive lockdown has launched Scotland’s first cinema-run streaming service.

The Netflix-like feature will give fans the chance to watch new releases, obscure gems and much-loved classics while showing their support for the Birks Cinema in Aberfeldy.

© Gareth Jennings/DCT Media
Robin Baker of the Birks Cinema Trust.

The art deco auditorium has been closed to the public since November, when pandemic restrictions were tightened up across Perth and Kinross.

Its new streaming service, only the second of its kind in Britain, gives viewers the chance to buy or rent movies to watch at home, with plans to shift to a subscription payment plan in the future.

Board member Anne Brocklehurst said: “This year has seen an overwhelming level of support for the Birks as it fights to stay open in an uncertain environment.

“The streaming service is just one of the ways the team have diversified, bringing the magic of film into homes across the country while the auditorium doors remain closed.”

She said the service will continue to run once things get back to normal, operating like a “second screen” from home.

Funding for the project has come from the community, including a significant sum from one of the founders of the cinema Charlotte Flower.

The library of films includes latest releases such as critically acclaimed drama Baby Done, the David Bowie biopic Stardust, football documentary Finding Jack Charlton, as well as big screen hits Knives Out, David Copperfield and Military Wives.

“The programme is curated uniquely for The Birks audience, with our local community in mind and in due course we will feature adventure and outdoor films, a focus on the environment, Scottish films and more,” said Anne.

“The service also offers a chance to catch something that may have been missed at the cinema, classics and a selection for kids and young adults.”

The Birks, which was reopened after a hard-fought community campaign, was one of six independent cinemas in Tayside and Fife to secure a slice of more than £600,000 of Scottish Government aid. Last year, it boosted its coffers with a successful weekend of drive-in screenings.

Meanwhile, the Perth Film Society – a group of enthusiasts who run weekly cinema nights in the Fair City – is also having to diversify to keep afloat.

Following a successful online screening at Christmas, the society will be hosing another virtual film night on February 11. Yuli tells the dramatic story of world famous Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta.

The home screening is supported by Horsecross and Cinemas for All, and tickets will be available on the Horsecross website.