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From Sofa Seating Cinemas to Archive Restoration

Apr 08 2017

SM: Bliss is a new name in the archive world. Can you tell me something about Bliss Investment Partners?

DB: We are a private Office Investment Partnership. We invest in and work with selected partners in different property and operational investments. Through proactive collaboration we add value, maximising returns on investment and realising shared objectives and common goals. My business partner – Robert Agsteribbe and I have known and worked with one another for many years. We have various experience from property investment and development to hotel and leisure investment and operations.

Specifically, in 2000 we bought the old Everyman Cinema in Hampstead Village out of receivership. We conceived and implemented a new approach in cinema which focused on the experience instead of the film. We pioneered sofa seating, table service, wine and good coffee all in a great environment more akin to private screening lounge. From humble beginnings the Hampstead venue became the leading independent venue in London. In 2007 we raised investment to acquire the Screen Group for approximately £6.5m.

We often trust our instinct rather than complex market assessments. We’ve found that, a lot of the time, people don’t know what they want till you give it to them and we’re following the same instinct with the archive business.

SM: How did you get involved with the archive restoration business?

DB: From a small opportunity – everything starts from an idea and a conversation. We were approached by someone who told us about the BBC equipment for sale. We instinctively “picked up” on this and asked – what is archive content? We were not alone – It is incredible how many people have not heard of archive (as a business sector) but watch their content and take it for granted. Very quickly this fanciful idea became a reality when we met Jo Griffin who in her inimitable way said “OK”. And away we went with the idea.

SM: Did you know anything about archives before you set up R3store?

DB: No but we went on a quick learning curve!

Learning the Business

SM: What have you learned? Do you enjoy the business?

DB: Loads so far – specifically my wife found some old family home movies which were sitting in a box somewhere. We were able to take these to R3store and get them into a state that we could view them. Rob did the same with footage his family found. The first of these films we saw was of my older daughter, aged about three, holding her day-old sister. They cried when watching it – this reinforced to me the value and power of what we do at R3store daily.

We also love Jo and the team – without them nothing is possible. We enjoy the day-to-day work. How we feel about things is important to us – thinking back to the pleasure that I could see on my daughters’ faces when they first saw that family archive film was wonderful – we want to bring that feeling to others through our restoration work; and that is the way we want to sell our services – not based on the technical jargon and complexities of 4k etc. We want to develop the business by R3store owning either jointly or wholly.

Taking R3store Forward

SM: So what kind of footage are you looking for? Would you like Archive Zones’ readers to let you know about their collections?

DB: Absolutely. We are interested in world content reflecting personal histories. Frequently people do not know what to do with their archives – there is no incentive and it costs a lot. So they approach others to
curate the content and restoration has to be part of that. Our objective is to be a ‘one stop’ shop from curation to production. We’re already in discussion with various entities from all over the world. Our new Commercial Director, Matt Wills, started in February and has a particular track record in content sales and acquisition. We’re very ambitious – so watch this space!

SM: Some facility houses have been pulling out of film restoration. Is this an area you might specialise in?

DB: That is true – and I guess on one hand it could be a worrying sign. However, we look at things differently – this reinforces the opportunity for us in a niche market. We like a niche business!

SM: Are you optimistic about the future?

DB: Always – we trust our instincts and are confident in our abilities – not just in business but life in general! It’s an exciting world, full of opportunities. As Woody Allen famously said, “99% of success is turning up” and we are serial “turn uppers’. More specifically, some interesting things are on our immediate horizon, including our support of the BFI’s Archive Futures aimed at archive and collection specialists and managers from around the world who want to share their own experiences and learn from professionals at the ‘cutting edge’ of archive practice, as we enter a new digital age.

Archive at Everyman Cinema?

SM: I understand you are also involved with the Everyman Cinema chain. Could you use this link to show more restored archive productions?

DB: I’m proud to be the founder of Everyman Cinemas as it is today – an AIM listed company with a pipeline of 26 venues, revenues of £20m+ p.a. and a market cap of £60m’ish. Not bad from a ‘cold start’ and year one turnover of £289,000. Definitely synergies there – for instance, R3store are sponsoring the IWM’s short film festival and I’m hooking them up with Everyman. Maybe we need to talk more about a FOCAL International Archive Film Festival?

SM: How do you think you can benefit from FOCAL International membership? Is there anything we should be doing to help develop the restoration business?

DB: Immediate recognition for our new company and a platform for networking. We think you’re doing a great job, so more of the same. Maybe the aforementioned film festival?

SM: Many thanks!

Download the latest Spring 2017 issue of the Focal International Archive Zones here and see some of the many great articles published. See the article in full online, many thanks to Sue Malden at http://www.focalint.org for the interview.