‘It will be a sinking ship very soon’ - concerns over future of historic Suffolk cinema

The future of the Riverside in Woodbridge looks uncertain Picture: GREGG BROWN/ KATY SANDALLS

The future of the Riverside in Woodbridge looks uncertain Picture: GREGG BROWN/ KATY SANDALLS - Credit: Archant

The future of a popular Suffolk cinema is hanging in the balance following the impact of the coronavirus.

Concerns have been raised about the future of the Riverside Theatre in Woodbridge.

The popular cinema and theatre reopened on July 31 but since reopening the number of cinema goers has been very low, leading to concerns about the sustainability of the business.

With virus restrictions the cinema has a capacity of 100 people; however, current audiences for the shows have been between 6 and 30 people, leaving at least 2/3 of the seats empty.

The lack of audience has led to real concerns about how much longer the business can last.

“It will be a sinking ship very soon,” said Stuart Saunders, who has owned the cinema since 1984.

One of the biggest concerns for film buffs has been whether it is safe to return, but Mr Saunders has been keen to make clear that the building is safe.

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With plenty of space on offer as well as an aerated cinema space hopes had been high that more people would return.

“It’s extremely safe,” said Mr Saunders.

“Four of you have a row of 24.”

There’s also been confusion about when and where masks should be used on the premises.

“You have to wear one in the foyer,” said Mr Saunders.

However, face coverings are not necessary when eating or drinking in the cinema.

While the cinema has struggled there has been positive news elsewhere with the ice cream stand proving popular.

Last month, the Riverside’s restaurant reopened as A Lister’s, a concept bar which focused on the glitz and glam of movies, under the guidance of former 152 Restaurant runner Andy Lister.

The new bar too, has proved popular with visitors.

“It’s going incredibly well,” said Mr Saunders.

“It’s an essential part of the business right now.”

The Riverside is still taking donations as well as it seeks to secure it’s future and keep staff paid; the British Film Institute have been among the cinema’s donors.

“The donations have been very good,” said Mr Saunders.

“It goes pretty quickly sadly.”

The cinema has stood in Woodbridge since 1915 and stayed open through both world wars and serious flooding from the River Deben in the 1960s.

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