Brighton’s Big Screen boss ‘heartbroken’ after UK’s largest open air cinema operator wins beach film bid

Posted On 09 Feb 2018 at 7:02 pm

The man who brought open air cinema to Brighton beach says he is “totally and entirely” heartbroken after a London company outbid him for the rights to use the seafront.

Brighton’s Big Screen

Bill Murray, of Hove-based Murray Media and Brighton Big Screen Events, launched Brighton’s Big Screen in 2012, when it showed events from the Olympics as well as films on the beach near the West Pier.

In subsequent years, it moved to the east of the Palace Pier, and also showed World Cup matches, as well as shorts from local filmmakers.

But last year, Brighton and Hove City Council announced that for the first time, the lease of the beach for an open air cinema would be put out to tender – and yesterday it was announced that Luna Beach Cinema, which describes itself as the UK’s number 1 open air cinema, had been successful.

Mr Murray says that the loss of the lease will be a devastating blow for his business.

It also raises the question of what this means for other city events held on council land, such as the marathon, half marathon, food and drink festival – and even the Brighton Festival itself.

Mr Murray said: “It broke my heart totally and entirely because we built something up for six years and then someone comes along with loads of money and pushes out the community element.


It simply pushes the funds we needed to stay in business up the M23.

“We were the summer for some people. They loved the cheap or free entry and enjoyed our food and drinks.

“I’m devastated that we have come up with the idea, worked it so that we could finally make it work financially then have it taken away when we just starting to get on our feet.

“It’s like building a windmill and growing the wheat and then just as you are about to make your first loaf of bread, Hovis turns up in an articulated lorry.

“We helped to raise money for Save the Terraces, we worked with local businesses like the Volks Tavern and the Madeira Cafe who were providing us with our catering.”

Mr Murray said that the Big Screen employed about 100 people overall, including contractors for services such as security, catering and first aid.

He said: “I have had to let my first aid team company go today – they’re nurses and medical staff from the hospital who have supported the event since the start. And I’ve had to let the people who do the free short films down today too. Other companies are suffering because of this late decision.

“I haven’t heard the full premise, but we were told it was because we didn’t come up with enough money. We built this up for someone else to exploit.”

In a press release yesterday, the council said that the Luna cinema would be showing key matches from the World Cup, blockbuster movies and short films by local filmmakers.

It also said that the tender process had taken local economic impact into account alongside the history of the business, experience, proposed event programme and licence fee – and that it would be employing local people where possible.

“Last year, the council was approached by several companies to screen the World Cup matches on the beach and run the annual screen on the beach event.

“We decided the fairest and only way was to hold a clear and robust process and offer the event to the applicant who could best fulfil the criteria. That company was Luna.

“I understand how disappointed the businesses which were not chosen will be, but we had a duty to choose the company who we believe will provide the best event possible for our residents, businesses and tourists.”

George Wood, Managing Director of The Luna Cinema said: “We are delighted to be operating the Screen on the Beach this year and for the next two years, and will work tirelessly to ensure a fantastic event for the city.

“Our intention is for Luna Beach Cinema to be a celebration of the local community, offering an inclusive cultural experience in a truly iconic setting, but also encouraging local film makers and aspiring directors with regular screenings of locally made short films.

“Alongside this, the cinema will offer employment for local people with a policy of recruitment of front of house personnel from the local community where possible.”

The cinema will screen films from Thursday, 14 June until Sunday, 15 July.

The Luna Cinema’s experience includes staging more than 150 screenings each year in settings including Hampton Court Palace, Warwick Castle, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Cardiff Castle, Leeds Castle, Blenheim Palace and Kensington.

  1. Kinell Reply

    So what you’re saying is certain businesses should have complete exclusivity and be exempt from competition? I’m afraid it doesn’t quite work like that.

    • Andrew Reply

      You’re absolutely right! The market ALWAYS caters for all. No intervention EVER necessary. Leaving things to free competition is THE BEST way to care for local economy, homelessness, disabilities or ANY social issue.

  2. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Cutting edge designers face this kind of snatch tactic by big outfits every day. Copyright infringement is just a fact for them as rip-off designs get manufactured abroad and sold cheaper than originators can do it. Cruel.

  3. bradly Reply

    it there a planning application? licensing application? what were “the criteria”? where is the tendering aplication?

    • Elaine B Reply

      The criteria was how much money the Tories can screw out of it so they could cut more public services. Only Jeremy Corbyn can save us from this mess.

      • Alan Reply

        Brighton and Hove is a Labour council Elaine…

  4. Sam Smith Reply

    It’s the best thing that could have happened. Mr Murray is will known for not paying suppliers and putting local businesses at risk. He was exploiting everyone and getting away with it. No more!

  5. Claire Craske Reply

    Councils always choose the cheapest options, regardless of previous suppliers’ loyalty, length of service or superior quality.
    They have to because they’re slaves to budgets and beancounting.
    On a wider scale that’s why we buy our summer clothes from sweatshops.
    Capitalism and Communism – both suck.

  6. Kristian Reply

    Surely the council are duty bound to try and make as much money from leasing the site as they can. If somebody comes along and outbids the previous operator, meaning more money for the city, I’m afraid sentiment and loyalty don’t come into it.

    Council budgets have been slashed to the point where many councils are barely functioning. We’re lucky our local economy is buoyant enough that private enterprise can help make up some of the shortfall.

    It is a shame that a local business can’t run this operation anymore, but our city needs money, and badly. Therefore we have to cash in where we can

  7. Pearl N Dean Reply

    By the same logic, presumably Mr Murray can now offer to put on a marathon in April and force the council to invite bids from himself and the existing event organiser and any other interested bidders – or a charity bike ride in June and force the council to invite bids from himself and the British Heart Foundation and anyone else who’s interested – and so on.
    It’s a warning to the people who set up and run Pride, Paddle Round the Pier, the Veteran Car Run and a whole load of other established events.

    • Terry Wing Reply

      Pearl, they were my thoughts also. In fact, we should perhaps put the i360 out to tender annually also?

  8. Danielle Reply

    Perhaps this new company will at least answer emails? I sent countless to Bill Murray’s company last summer after a screening that I had bought tickets for was cancelled and no refund was ever given. Shocking customer service.

  9. Ian Reply

    I expect the council wanted to get a company in who would actually pay their staff and contractors unlike Mr Murray

  10. Mrs Murray Reply

    Bill Murray is an otter disgrace and a complete carrot. He failed to pay suppliers and staff so word obviously got back the council who made the decision to put the event out to competitive tender.

    I hope the M23 is a long long road Mr Murray !

  11. Brian Hayfield Reply

    Mr Murray has ripped of many a business via the cinema, also does not pay his staff!! he scams suppliers too. He has got a bad reputation around town. I’m not suprised word got back to the council. Luna cinema was amazing this year very well organised a great edition to the summer events in Brighton.

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