Reel good news as cinemas given vital funding handout

It’s lights, camera, action for independent cinemas across Shropshire as they receive a funding boost from the Government.

Majestic Cinema Bridgnorth. Manager James Frizzell
Majestic Cinema Bridgnorth. Manager James Frizzell

The announcement came as an early Christmas present for three cinemas in the county, and more than 200 across the country as they were given a share of £16 million from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

Oswestry’s Kinokulture cinema received £25,282, Bridgnorth’s Reel cinema was given £9,997 and Wellington’s Orbit cinema was given a huge boost of £65,647.

Investor Glenn Chard with Wellington Orbit directors Fiona Hunter and Ray Hughes

The money comes from a £30 million pot allocated by the British Film Institute (BFI), on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as part of the biggest ever single investment in this country’s cultural sectors. More grant applications from independent cinemas are also currently being assessed.

Fiona Hunter, director of the Wellington Orbit, said they were so pleased with the news.

She said: “For the time being this grant allows everyone to feel safe in terms of jobs and keeping the cinema and cafe open.

“Who knows what 2021 will bring but it means we can preserve our aspiration to fully convert our site into an arts centre.”

Ian Garland of Kinokulture Cinema in Oswestry

Her colleague, Phil Morris Jones, chair of the Orbit’s charitable society, said: “By enabling us to trade on a break even basis, the Culture Recovery Fund award has respected the five years of hard work, money and emotion put in by so many people to get a trading premises while preserving our aspirations to fully reconvert the site into the all embracing arts centre our town deserves.”

James Frizzell, manager of Reel Bridgnorth, said the funding was a big help after a difficult year with a lack of new film premieres.

“It was tough closing down again for the lockdown – out of 15 Reel cinemas, only four of us are open,” James said.

Wellington Orbit. With the sign is: John Abbott, duty manager, and with him is Liam McClelland (far left) and Joerg Niehoegen

“Most of them are in Tier 3 so you can imagine the effect that has had on the company.

“So every penny helps us at this point. We have spent most of it on PPE and social distancing measures really so we hope we don’t go back into another lockdown, which I think we probably will.

“We have got Wonder Woman 1984 out now, and people have been coming out to watch it, which is good. We’ve even had to drop ticket prices further.

Majestic Cinema in Bridgnorth. Manager James Frizzell

“It has been a slow start after opening again following the lockdown. So Wonder Woman is our saving grace for Christmas really. It’s a lot of pressure on one film though.

“At least Warner Bros are trying, most others, especially Disney, are just putting stuff straight onto streaming sights.”

Wellington Orbit

The cinema has had to stream older films such as Elf and Home Alone over the Christmas period.

James added: “But it’s been positive because people have been coming and supporting us. This grant will help us stay open and help us hold out until January.”

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