Historic cinema uses lockdown to continue major renovation work
- Credit: RACHEL EDGE
Renovation works have been continuing at the Abbeygate cinema in Bury St Edmunds during lockdown - and the team behind the historic venue claim it will be better than ever when it eventually reopens.
The Hatter Street premises is hoping to open its doors when safe to do so with an entirely new auditorium, updated bar area and new cutting edge technology.
Chris Peters, project manager at the cinema, was devastated when they closed their doors to the public last month, but said that Abbeygate is never quiet for long.
“This is a difficult time for many businesses and cinema is particularly hit by the pandemic,” Mr Peters explained.
“But, all around the world, smart cinemas are using this time to clean, decorate, refurbish and redevelop so that when cinema-going returns, we’re in the best possible shape to welcome our customers back to an even better experience.”
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In recent weeks, carpenters, electricians, carpet and seat installers have taken it in turns to continue renovation at ‘a steady, safe and socially distanced pace’.
The Old Bingo Hall is being transformed into a new auditorium and Mr Peters is sure the extra screen will be coming in handy when cinemas get the green light to open.
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He said: “We were going to open it in spring in a bare bones pop up format just to temporarily run some fundraising screenings, launching with the new James Bond film.
“But in the circumstances we now find ourselves, we’re pushing on with the work so the auditorium will be as close to finished as possible when we re-open to the public.
“The film release calendar will be compressed now for the rest of this year right into 2021 and when restrictions start to get lifted, people will be wanting to get out and see films at the cinema, so what cinemas will need is more screens and seats – and that’s exactly what we’ll have.”
The tailor-made screen frame of the new screen is already in place and soon the state-of-the-art 4K laser projection system will be installed.
The expansion of the cinema has been supported by the ‘2020 Building Blocks’ fundraising scheme which has seen hundreds of cinema goers donate money.
Those donating £50 or more will see their names engraved on the wooden block art installation when the building is finished.