More films, a greater variety of start times, a wider audience and a chance to see classics in brand new prints on the big screen are all features of a revamped, new look at the Ipswich Film Theatre.

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The volunteer-run two screen cinema, housed in the Ipswich Corn Exchange, is also lining up a series of family-friendly matinees for the February half term which will be offered at family friendly prices.

Jane Riley, chairwoman of the Ipswich Film Theatre Trust, said that as the independent cinema approaches its third birthday in May they wanted to shake things up a bit.

“We are always looking to build audiences and the best way to do that is offer a greater variety of film.

“Our sole reason for being is that we want to offer people, in and around Ipswich, the opportunity to see as wide-a-range of films as possible – everything from foreign language movies to independent films, Hollywood classics to what it is known as cross-over movies, those prestige films which play equally well in a multiplex as in a traditional art house.”

She said that the IFT also screens live broadcasts from the National Theatre on London’s Southbank, bringing the latest plays by some of the world’s leading playwrights right into the heart of Ipswich.

From the start of this month, IFT has been operating new start times which have effectively turned two screens into three – offering them greater flexibility in terms of programming and allowing them to reach a much broader range of audiences.

“We don’t just have one audience we have lots of different audiences whose interests overlap. What we try and do is satisfy as many of those different tastes as possible. You only have to look at our audiences to see that they range from students through to young couples to veteran filmgoers. Last year we had 21,000 walk through our doors. In 2011 it was 17,125, so it’s growing which is great.

“It’s a real cross-section of the community and that’s how it should be. We view ourselves as a real community resource and we host specialist screenings for specific sections of the Indian and Chinese communities as well as taking an active role in events such as PULSE, Ip-Art and the SPILL Festival.”

The new start times mean that the old two screen programme now moves into screen one and we have an early film and a late film. The first starting at about 6pm and the other at about 8.30pm. the exact start times are determined by the film’s running time. We have a policy that none of our films will end after 10.30pm so if we have a very long film like Les Miserables or Lincoln then we will just have one showing an evening starting at 7.30pm.”

This screening programme then allows the old 40-seat screen two to become a specialist screen showing classics, hosting education courses and running a documentary programme. “It gives us a great amount of flexibility because it allows us to programme films that are important and well-made but perhaps don’t have a huge audience. This month we are screening Cashing Ice, an-opening film about the effects of global warming, and McCullin, a look at the life and work of photo-journalist Bob McCullin.”

These films are balanced with screenings of popular foreign langauge films like A Royal Affair, Rust and Bone, British hits like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Quartet and The King’s Speech, independent films like Sightseers, Angel’s Share and Ginger and Rosa along with prestige films like The Artist, Les Miserables, Lincoln and Hitchcock.

She said that IFT also like to create complementary programming and have scheduled screenings of Hitchcock classics North By Northwest and Notorious to play alongside the new Anthony Hopkins bio-pic. They are also screening film noir classics like Kiss Me Deadly and Out of the Past (aka Build My Gallows High) to support the New Wolsey Theatre’s modern day film noir And Then The Dark, opening next week.

For Valentine’s Day the IFT will be screening a pristine new print of the Audrey Hepburn/Gregory Peck comedy Roman Holiday. Jane said: “The great thing about screening restored prints of clasic films is that they not only look stunning up on the big screen, where they are designed to be seen, but frequently we are showing a better print today than cinemas would have had when they were first released.

“In the old days the new prints were shown in London cinemas first before being sent on a tour of the provinces. By the time they got to towns like Ipswich some of the prints were getting fairly scratched and battered. Now everything looks perfect.”

Other films in the pipeline for IFT include The Sessions, the Oscar-nominated tale of sexual surrogates, the UK independent romantic comedy I Give It A Year and I Wish, the moving story of two Japanese brothers who contrive to stay in contact with one another after their parents divorce.

A monthly film brochure is available from the Corn Exchange, tourist information office, the New Wolsey Theatre and DanceEast.

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