Video: Royal seal of approval for Leiston Film Theatre as venue celebrates centenary

HRH The Duke of Gloucester visited the Leiston Film Theatre to celebrate it's centenary.
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HRH The Duke of Gloucester visited the Leiston Film Theatre to celebrate it's centenary. The Duke chatting with Wayne Burns. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s oldest cinema welcomed its first ever royal visitor to mark its 100th year.

The Duke of Gloucester visited Leiston Film Theatre as part of its centenary celebrations, watching a short film of the venue’s history, seeing the new digital 3D projection room, before unveiling a plaque to mark the occasion.

The duke said the cinema must have given the people of Leiston and surrounding rural area “an amazing insight” into the wider world when it opened in 1914 at the time of the First World War and an understanding of the effect activities in places far away were having on their lives.

He said: “It must have been a wonderful educational tool apart from being a place of enterainment.”

The cinema opened during the days of silent movies and was a huge success with three daily showings and queues down the High Street.

Later it had financial problems, but enjoyed a resurgence when the talkies arrived. During another lull in its fortunes it was taken over in 1976 by Leiston Town Council, which, with the help of Leiston Film Theatre Support Club, has refurbished and updated the building.

Film theatre manager Wayne Burns said it had been an honour to have the Duke of Gloucester visit. he presented him with a copy of his book about the film theatre’s history, called Spilling the Popcorn.

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He said: “He was very impressed with the projection room and the support we have had through the community, and was very inquisitive with lots of questions. He was very warm and engaging.”

The film theatre is holding 100 special events to mark 100 years of cinema-going in Leiston and Mr Burns said it had been a “remarkable, roller coaster year”.