‘The wars couldn’t stop us but the virus could’ – Suffolk’s oldest cinema planning to reopen

PUBLISHED: 17:44 09 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:44 09 June 2020

The 105-year-old cinema did not close during either of the World Wars but was forced to close by coronavirus  Picture: LEISTON FILM THEATRE

The 105-year-old cinema did not close during either of the World Wars but was forced to close by coronavirus Picture: LEISTON FILM THEATRE

Leiston Film Theatre

Leiston Film Theatre, Suffolk’s oldest cinema, is planning to reopen to the public in July after nearly three months of lockdown.

The capacity of Leiston Film Theatre will fall from 253 to 60 under the social distancing guidelines  Picture: LEISTON FILM THEATREThe capacity of Leiston Film Theatre will fall from 253 to 60 under the social distancing guidelines Picture: LEISTON FILM THEATRE

Since the cinema closed in March, Wayne Burns, the cinema’s manager and only full-time member of staff, has been planning its reopening.

He said: “It was our decision to close – we wanted to do the right thing by our staff and customers – but then that day the prime minister announced that everything had to close.

“And then we started preparing to reopen the day after.

“Other than refurbishments or building works, this is the first time the venue has been closed in its 105-year history – the wars couldn’t stop us but the virus could.”

Leiston Film Theatre is planning to reopen July 5.  Picture: LEISTON FILM THEATRELeiston Film Theatre is planning to reopen July 5. Picture: LEISTON FILM THEATRE

MORE: Wayne Burns’s new book looks at its first 100 years of Leiston Film Theatre

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The 11 part-time members of staff were furloughed after the cinema closed, leaving Mr Burns to come up with the plan for reopening.

Under social distancing guidelines only 60 of the 253 seats will be used, popcorn will only be available in bags, ticket stubs will not be torn, and there will one entrance for pre-booked tickets and another for the box office.

Films that were scheduled to be released early in year have been moved back, but a grand re-opening on Sunday, July 5 is still promised.

“We’re hoping to have our programme sorted by the end of this week but we’ll open back up with some recent films, some classic films and some special events.

“We are actually producing a live show because a lot of my entertainment pals have got no work so we’re working on putting shows together which we are calling ‘social distancing delights’ which use two performers, one doing the first half and one doing the second.

“Most distributors have moved their films back to the end of July or August, and then September really is where it gets busy. The latter part of the year has got a lot of big films like the new James Bond, which we were due to show in April. Hopefully they’ll entice people back into the cinema.”

While the cinema will not make as much money when it reopens due to social distancing, it has committed to not increasing ticket prices for a year.

“How we’ll cope financially is a bit of an unknown entity. But 60 seats are better than none.

“The seating capacity is what it is but it’s important to put people before profit.”

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