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Work begins on creating two new screens at the Abbeygate Cinema, in Bury St Edmunds

PUBLISHED: 14:41 02 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:22 02 January 2018

Jonathan Carpenter and Pat Church are thrilled with the news.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jonathan Carpenter and Pat Church are thrilled with the news. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

There’s been many changes and conversions at the Abbeygate Cinema over the years.

The lifelong dream of picturehouse manager Pat Church to see additional screens at the town centre site is going forward.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe lifelong dream of picturehouse manager Pat Church to see additional screens at the town centre site is going forward. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

And now builders are back inside the building in Bury St Edmunds to prepare for conversion of the neighbouring former bingo hall into two new screens.

One will be a premier screen which is set to seat up to 200 people while a smaller fourth screen is to become a niche luxury cinema showing rare and little seen films with a capacity of 50 clientele.

For Pat Church, the part time manager at the venue in Hatter Street, it’s a dream come true as he has been waiting 40 years to develop and expand the cinema.

The 71-year-old said: “I came here in 1966 and I have been here ever since which is 51 years ago and obviously the building has had many, many, changes in different ownership since then and to me to have it come to this it’s like a lifetime’s work come to fruition.

The front of the old Abbeygate Cinema in the 1960sThe front of the old Abbeygate Cinema in the 1960s

“It’s a complete investment into the future cinema-going public of Bury St Edmunds and surrounding district and it’s going to be something to be very, very proud of and from my point of view what a legacy to leave behind and hand over to someone else.

“It’s just a dream come true for me, it really is, that’s the way I feel about it.

“My one main ambition now is to be here on the opening night, dressed up, on the front of house greeting people into it ... that’s my last main ambition now.

“We’ve shown that there is a need for the additional screens and we’ve proved that and the owner thinks that otherwise they would not have put the investment into it.

Pat Church working in the Abbeygate Cinema as a projectionistPat Church working in the Abbeygate Cinema as a projectionist

“It’s been a lifetime’s ambition to get the bingo hall back as a cinema again.”

Jonathan Carpenter, the general manager, said it is hoped to have the two new screens opened by the start of 2019.

“I would like it to be open for this time next year if possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, cinema owner Lyn Goleby, said she was reluctant to say how much the project will cost

The old bingo hall and cinema in Hatter StreetThe old bingo hall and cinema in Hatter Street

but that the work will be approached in stages.

“It’s a very big project for the cinema, even bigger than its most recent redevelopment and the work will be approached in stages.

“Our main aim is to get the new large auditorium built and we expect it to take more than a year to create a new fabulous steep raked auditorium with new circulation areas and box office.

“But we’ll need the support of our membership while we see the project through and we’re aiming to reward them with some lovely new club areas.”

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