It’s been a year since the good people of Bradford rallied to support the National Media Museum, then under threat of closure by bosses at the Science Museum (run by the Department of Culture, Media & Sport) in London.
Twelve months on visitor numbers continue to decline. The latest figures suggest just 480,000 people passed through its doors last year, a big fall on the 737,851 recorded in 2008.
Museum management claim visitors to galleries and exhibitions are up by eight per cent on last year and that visits by families and adults are increasing. The decrease, said NMeM director Jo Quinton-Tulloch, is down to the museum’s cinema operation and IMAX.
The NMeM is a free museum. Its exhibitions and galleries cost money to run and curate. And money has not been handed out freely by London. The film operation, potentially a huge revenue generator, appears not to have been adequately funded for many years. And with two out of the museum’s four film festivals being axed – Bite the Mango bit the dust in 2010 and the Fantastic Films Weekend in 2011 – the future for film does not look good.
The big question mark is over IMAX. No-one is asking how long the IMAX contract has to run and why equipment has not been upgraded to digital. Is it merely expense or something more physical, such as the make-up of the building?
And in the world’s first UNESCO City of Film why are film festivals in decline rather than in rude health?
If people don’t want to visit this once mighty institution than something is clearly very wrong. Investment is needed. Rumours that the museum’s cinemas are to be handed over to the ODEON group may not be accurate but if DCMS can’t or won’t support the NMeM then perhaps opting out of film may be a way forward.
But what a shame to see such a great attraction struggling to survive.