Film theatre extension to bring big community benefits

Agreement has been reached to build a £188,000 extension to Suffolk’s oldest cinema – safeguarding its future for staging live shows.

Leiston Film Theatre, which celebrated its centenary last year, has been suffering from cramped backstage conditions which have limited its ability to stage large productions, with not enough properly segregated areas for adults and children to change costumes.

The new single-storey extension to the rear and side of the building in High Street will provide new toilet facilities and stores, and a link corridor, which will allow internal alterations to create improved dressing rooms.

Town clerk John Rayner said the extension would ensure the future of live entertainment at the venue.

Each year the film theatre stages a highly popular and successful panto, plus amateur productions and professional concerts.

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He said: “Live shows are important not only for the viability of the cinema but for the community as a whole. It’s not about money, it’s about investment in the premises, creating community value, and allowing events, such as the panto and other shows, to be staged which people really enjoy.

“Our dressing rooms must meet safeguarding requirements for when children are involved in productions and at the moment they don’t meet those requirements. This extension will mean that live shows can continue.”

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Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council has agreed to finance the project. It already has £67,000 saved towards the scheme, including £6,000 from county councillor Richard Smith’s enabling budget a £6,000 grant from Suffolk Coastal.

It has now agreed to take out a £125,000 loan from the Public Works Loan Board to be paid back at £14,000 a year over ten years with 2.2% interest.

Councillors were reassured that the project would not have any impact on the council tax, with any rises in the tax more likely to arise because of the reduction in tax grant received and the council’s decision to take over play areas in the town.

Councillor Bill Howard said the town council should make efforts to get increased grant from Suffolk Coastal as the district was spending huge sums on new facilities in Felixstowe – such as the gardens and boating lake area – while other councillors called for more investigations into other funding streams.

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