Aldeburgh Cinema celebrates 100 years of film in the community
PUBLISHED: 18:14 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:14 17 May 2019
From the silent, black and white films of the fledgling film industry to the blockbusters of the current day, Aldeburgh Cinema has been entertaining audiences for a century.
And today, a year of celebrations kicked off in the seaside town to mark 100 years since the cinema first opened its doors.
A star of the small screen, broadcaster Bill Turnbull, helped to kick off the celebrations as he interviewed stalwarts of the cinema's history.
While a current star of the silver screen, Bill Nighy, urged film fans to continue to support the independent cinema for another 100 years.
Susan Harrison, who worked at the cinema for more than 50 years, Felicity Ann Sieghart the cinema's former chair and managing director, and Wayne Burns, Leiston Film Theatre manager, were among those who joined Mr Turnbull on stage to discuss Aldeburgh Cinema's past.
"It's a great cinema, it's a great space and it's got a great history and 100 years of cinema without stopping," said Mr Turnbull.
"It's a warm, friendly space and you always see your friends whenever you come to see great films here.
"Most of all it's independent, it's for the people of Aldeburgh and this part of Suffolk. It's not owned by a multinational company making vast profits.
"It's often struggled to keep going but it does and we very much hope that it continues to do so."
In addition, the cinema also held a screening of a film which was first released in the year it opened.
South was released in 1919 and is a first-hand account of Sir Ernest Shackleton's second attempt to reach the South Pole on board the HMS Endurance.
The cinema also released a new ident to mark the anniversary with a special message from actor Bill Nighy in which he implored people to continue to support the cinema.
In the ident Mr Nighy said: "I'm a big fan of Aldeburgh Cinema and it is a charity and therefore I would ask you to help keep it going in anyway you can.
"Would you consider, as I have, becoming a friend?
"Anything you can do that can help us continue to show lots of wonderful films for another 100 years."
The celebrations kick off a season of events to mark the cinema's centenary including beach showings of films like Grease and Jaws as well as the 25th anniversary of DocFest and an evening with Lenny Henry later on in the year.
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Aldeburgh Carnival will also be at the centre of the special anniversary with this year's theme focusing on the town's cinematic history.
A grand finale to the centenary year is still under wraps and will be held in December.
History of the Cinema
Aldeburgh Cinema has a long and rich history.
The cinema was first opened in the summer of 1919 when Walter Hill, a draper and gentleman's outfitter opened the Aldeburgh Picture House.
The building suffered near misses during the Second World War with four bombs falling close to the building, some civilians and soldiers died but the building itself continued to operate during the war.
Over the years the cinema continued to have a number of owners, one of the most notable being Benjamin Britten who bought the building with a consortium of others in 1965.
One of the cinema's biggest influences was former mayor of Aldeburgh Letty Gifford who helped to ensure the town's place as a cinematic hub, demanding top films be shown at the same time as in London venues.
In 2017 the cinema became a Visitor Information Centre for the town and in 2019 added the role of box office for Jubilee Hall to its list of roles.