Interest is mounting over plans to convert cinema complex in Bury St Edmunds

Lifelong dream of picturehouse manager Pat Church to see additional screens at the town centre site

Lifelong dream of picturehouse manager Pat Church to see additional screens at the town centre site is going forward. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Interest in the conversion of a popular independent cinema complex in Bury St Edmunds has grown so much that it’s led to customers and clients stopping the man behind the initiative in the street and quizzing him about the project.

Pat Church, the part time manager of the Abbeygate Cinema, in Hatter Street, said he has also been answering scores of emails and spoken to people attending screenings.

“Everybody just wants to stop and talk to me about the plans and it takes me half an hour to walk across from one side of the street to the other sometimes as people are so interested in what we are doing and for me it’s so good that they are showing an interest,” he said.

It comes after the East Anglian Daily Times revealed details behind the project back at the beginning of January.

Builders are now inside the cinema carrying out demolition work and creating a new foyer at the

neighbouring former bingo hall where there will be two new screens.

One will be a premier screen which is set to seat up to 200 people while a smaller fourth screen is to become a niche luxury cinema showing rare and little seen films with a capacity of 50 clientele.

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For Mr Church it is a dream come true as he has been waiting 40 years to develop and expand the cinema.

The 71-year-old said: “Since you ran the story I have just been getting so many people stopping me. It makes my lifetime’s work so worthwhile.

“It’s stimulated a whole lot of interest ... you have to experience it to believe it.

“It’s taken over my life over the past couple of weeks. All I have ever done is my job and I have never done it for this purpose and never expected this from it.

“Customers come in now and everyone wants to shake your hand and hug you and kiss you. How many cinema managers would have that done to them ... it’s overwhelming and unbelieveable.

“Demolition is continuing and the builders are there five days a week but we have to limit the amount of work because of the noise factor as we are still showing films. We can’t afford to curtail the shows so the work is going ahead along side us and it seems to be going well.

“The back end of this year we are hoping to have an opening date but you can never tell if there’s going to be any hold ups.”

And he added that his book “The Smallest Show on Earth” is selling well, even in the United States of America.

It tells about the many hours of hard work he and his wife Geraldine carried out at the cinema, the sacrifices he made and the fights he had with different business interests to keep the building afloat.

Cinema owner Lyn Goleby said she was reluctant to say how much the project will cost but that the work will be approached in stages.