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Historic cinema keen to welcome customers back after lockdown announcement

PUBLISHED: 06:30 24 June 2020

The Electric Palace in Harwich is one of the oldest cinemas in the UK and hopes to reopen in September Picture: CHRIS STRACHAN

The Electric Palace in Harwich is one of the oldest cinemas in the UK and hopes to reopen in September Picture: CHRIS STRACHAN

Archant

As cinemas prepare to reopen following the latest government lockdown announcement, one of the oldest cinema’s in the country is optimistic about the future.

The Electric Palace has been refurbished thanks to several grants and donations from the public Picture: DANIEL CONNAL PARTNERSHIPThe Electric Palace has been refurbished thanks to several grants and donations from the public Picture: DANIEL CONNAL PARTNERSHIP

The Electric Palace in Harwich was closed long before lockdown came into effect, with an extensive restoration starting in November 2018.

After hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding was secured and building work started, asbestos was discovered in the roof of the building, adding to construction bills and Heritage England placing the cinema on the ‘heritage at risk’ register to protect it.

But now the independent cinema is nearly ready to start welcoming customers again.

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Colin Crawford, the trustee of the Electric Palace, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech was good news for the industry and thought the future of the Electric Palace was looking bright.

“I am pleased to hear we now have the authority to reopen the cinema,” he said.

“Of course, we started work to refurbish it in 2018, so the start of the pandemic was less of a problem for us.

“We need to look at all the details of the announcement to make sure we do everything to keep our staff and customers safe, but we hope we will be able to open by September.”

The landmark is one of the UK’s oldest Grade II*-listed cinemas and boasts a silent screen, original projection room, ornamental frontage and a grand entrance lobby complete with a ticket booth.

All of these original features will now include plastic screens, hand sanitising stations and social distancing advice to comply with the government’s ‘Covid-secure’ guidelines.

The attraction is much-loved in the town, with Mr Crawford adding: “We have had local people asking when we are due to reopen because we were delayed by the extra work.

“I expect audiences will come back slowly but people are waiting to get back to the cinema, I think we and the industry are going to be okay.”

Other cinema chains are also preparing to reopen.

In Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill, cinema chain Cineworld will be opening its doors to customers again on July 10.

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The chain initially prepared for the two-meter social distancing rule but may now be able to welcome more customers safely.

Mr Crawford added: “Because of the new one-metre rule, I think we will be able to get our cinema about half-full, and that’s enough to keep us going when we hope to reopen in September.


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