Cambridge Arts Picturehouse: the Competition Commission has got it wrong!
The future of the Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge is now in serious doubt, after the Competition Commission ruled yesterday that Cineworld, who bought the Picturehouse chain in 2012, now have too great a share of the Cambridge cinema market.
Along with many others I wrote to the Competition Commission ahead of their decision to press the case that the Arts Picturehouse and Cineworld cater to different audiences and are in fact not in direct competition with each other. I have now written to the Business Secretary Vince Cable MP to underline this point.
To be frank, I start to wonder what the value of the Competition Commission is. In Cambridge we have two big problems with monopoly – Stagecoach’s control of the buses, and Tesco’s control of the supermarkets. My predecessor, David Howarth, worked with local residents in the Mill Road area to fight against the opening of a Tesco shop on Mill Road. At that time Tesco had over 50% of the groceries sector in Cambridge sown up. Since then, Tesco have opened more shops, and that figure has risen still further.
And yet, on these issues the Competition Commission has been silent. Bus fares in Cambridge are vastly higher than those in London because of Stagecoach’s monopoly. For many local people there is no alternative in walking distance to Tesco for their weekly shop. But the Competition Commission has done nothing.
But on the Picturehouse issue, where no one has complained, and the great majority of the public would like things to remain as they are, the Commission chooses to intervene and put the future of the Arts Picturehouse, and by default the acclaimed Cambridge Film Festival, in doubt.
I have started a petition to tell the Competition Commission to crack down on supermarkets and not cinemas. The petition can be found online here.
Along with the staff at the Arts Picturehouse and the thousands of people who have signed the petition against the closure, I will continue to fight against this decision.