A digital projector lent to the Midlands Arts Centre to promote independent films has been gathering dust for three months while a decision is made about its future.
The projector, thought to be worth around £60,000, was provided to the Mac last autumn by the UK Film Council’s Digital Screen Network.
But, since the Mac’s closure in April, the projector has remained unused and in storage.
This is despite pleas by a local cinema to rent the projector from the Mac to screen specialist films.
Tom Lawes, of Birmingham’s Electric Cinema, said he approached the Mac in April to discuss the possibility of renting the projector for a newly opened second screen.
Mr Lawes said: “We decided in January we could reopen the second screen; we thought it was a great opportunity to go digital. I phoned Mac and said we will hire it and pay for it during the period they are closed.
“I said they could put their logo on it but they refused to talk to me.”
Mr Lawes said he was disappointed the Mac was unwilling to enter into discussions about the future of the projector.
He said: “I thought we might be able to come to a financial arrangement.
“It certainly would have helped me, as I have personally financed the renovation of The Electric’s second screen. But they weren’t interested in talking to me.”
Mac told The Birmingham Post its hands were tied by its rental contract, it was unable to reissue the projector and would not have been able to help Mr Lawes.
A spokeswoman for Mac said: “Mac is a member of the Digital Screen Network and all of our equipment is rented and therefore not ours to lend.”
Operated by the Arts Alliance Media, the Digital Screen Network is a scheme designed to increase the amount of specialised film seen in the UK.
The UK Film Council is providing 240 screens in the UK with funding to access digital cinema equipment, in exchange for the cinema guaranteeing a minimum average number of specialised – arthouse and foreign language – film shows a week.
The digital projectors help cut down the cost of distributing films as digital films do not need to be sent to cinemas in 35mm rolls.
In addition to the Mac projector, West Midlands benefits from two Digital Screen Network projectors in Cineworld Birmingham Broad Street, one in Cineworld Wolverhampton, one in Lighthouse Wolverhampton, one in Warwick Arts Centre and two in Vue Birmingham Star City.
A spokeswoman from the UK Film Council confirmed that talks were ongoing with the Mac about the future of the projector, but added it was unlikely to remain in the West Midlands.
She added: “We are in discussions with the Mac and no final decision has been taken on reallocation. Birmingham and the West Midlands have done well out of the Digital Screen Network scheme.
“If the kit is re-allocated it is likely to be outside of Birmingham. Yes our preference would have been to Birmingham film fans and the Mac’s original application was very impressive, but the scheme already has a waiting list and The Electric Cinema is not on it.
“We have an obligation to those who have already applied and not yet benefited.”
The projector would also have to be redistributed to a similar establishment to the Mac, so it will probably go to another arts venue outside of the West Midlands.”
Mr Lawes said he had been unable to apply to the Digital Screen Network when it was seeking bids for the projectors. He said: “When the application of the Digital Screen Network appeared, the Electric was not in a position to apply.
“We hadn’t got the room because at the time most films were not available on digital - 35mm was still the standard. Now 90 per cent of films are available on digital.”
Jointly funded by Arts Council England, Birmingham City Council, and a Mac/Sampad fund-raising campaign, the Mac’s refurbishment plans aim to improve physical access to the arts centre.
A new three-storey building – connecting all the existing buildings and house – will be built with a new gallery, enlarged and improved bar, cafe, social areas, toilets and consolidated open-plan offices for the Mac and Sampad.
Changes to the existing buildings will include a 200msq performing arts studio, an improved reception and ticket office, and an extra function and meeting room.