Leiston: Bid to improve film theatre takes a step forward after council backing

Wayne Burns of the Leiston Film Theatre

Wayne Burns of the Leiston Film Theatre

An ambitious bid to improve facilities at Suffolk’s oldest purpose built cinema has taken a big step forward.

Bosses at Leiston Film Theatre want to extend the 99-year-old venue and create a multi functional studio at the rear of the building.

Members of the town council have now given the plans the initial thumbs up, much to the delight of manager Wayne Burns.

“The success of this proposal provides the ideal project to mark the film theatre’s 100th anniversary next year,” he said. “There were many celebratory events balanced on this decision and we can now look forward to a magnificent year to commemorate what is a remarkable achievement.”

It is intended to use the first floor extension as extra dressing room facilities to enable more community groups, schools and organisations to use the building for their productions. The space could also be hired privately for functions, meetings, classes and exhibitions.

The film theatre is owned and operated by Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council. At its most recent meeting members generally favoured investment, saying it ensured the usability of the cinema into the future.

Councillors Bill Howard and Colin Ginger raised some concerns given the current financial climate, saying while they were supportive of the venue they questioned the cost of the project and implications over loans.

Most Read

However it was also noted that the extension would help maintain the level of income currently enjoyed by the theatre and that with no improvement there was likely to be a drop in revenue with the loss of larger live shows.

It was felt the Council Tax precept would be likely to remain the same whatever option was chosen and as a result members agreed to initially commit to the proposed scheme by going to tender, releasing £20,000 from the project reserve to make this happen. Councillors also released £250 to help bid for grant funding from appropriate sources.

Once tenders are received, members will decide on the various funding options available for the project. If approved, work will start in February next year, with an anticipated summer opening date in time for the centenary celebrations.