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Much-loved cinema to re-open – despite facing £60,000 losses

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 09 October 2020 8:29

Much-loved cinema to re-open – despite facing £60,000 losses

Earlier this week we reported how a privately run Gloucester cinema had won just shy of £9,000 from Government to help it through the pandemic.  

It was widely hailed as good news, but no one thought to ask the owner of The Sherborne Cinema in Kingsholm whether that was so, what was going to happen with the money and whether it would in fact ever show a film again. 

Mark Cunningham did speak to The Raikes Journal to put it in the picture. It was a fascinating insight into one-man's battle to bring a community big-screen films – firstly by squeezing himself in next to the market’s major players, and now going up against a pandemic slaying all before it.

The money (£8,940) was great news, he said, although ironically now left him wondering how to deal with a potential £60,000 loss if he fulfils the small-print of the agreement with Government and opens with a massively reduced seating plan. 

Remarkably, he will re-open and he did reveal that important opening date.  

“Obviously we are very grateful to the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) and BFI (British Film Institute). They have been very helpful. It is quite a long-drawn-out application process.  

“A lot of those who apply will have financial controllers, people used to filling out forms and making applications. We are a just a little place in Gloucester,” said Mr Cunningham, who when The Raikes Journal called had been undertaking the kinds of things managers of their own businesses do – painting the décor, tinkering with a little DIY.

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“No one wants to make their staff redundance. Hopefully this means we can keep people on. Not to be able to do that would be heart-breaking. We would not want to have to cut anyone adrift before Christmas. 

The cinema has five staff and two assistant managers. 

“We have used the furlough scheme. Without that it would have been like it has been for a lot of businesses – like falling off a cliff. But we should be able to keep going now.  

“It is unfortunate that Cineworld is having to close down. It won’t really be to our benefit. We will be reducing the numbers we can admit.”

In the meantime, he has to work out how to engineer and fit a brand-new ventilation system and ensure the building will be safe to reopen for staff and customers. Kiosk snack sales – valuable addition income - will be one casualty, he thinks. An on-line booking system a new addition and cost. 

The £8,940 will not cover the loss in income from only part-filling the 141-seat cinema.  

“If we can get between 30 and 40 we should manage,” he said, pondering the seating options.  

“On the application we said we would lose about £30,000 between December and March operating like this. 

I think the actual loss will be more like £50,000 to £60,000. I thought if I put that down they would take a look at the size of the building, think I was crying wolf and dismissed the application.”  

Which is a long-winded way of saying more money could be afoot. The £8,940 being a “safety grant”. The name Sherborne Cinema is in the hat for a Business Sustainability Grant too.

Mr Cunningham was the man who brought The Palace Cinema in Cinderford back to life before selling it on and setting his sights on Gloucester’s former The Friends' Sherborne Street Mission Room, built in 1888, which he opened in 2015.  

Its Art Deco styling is all his own work, partly salvaged from other venues and the venue has attracted audiences from far and wide since.  

“It is a labour of love, but you have to be able to pay the bills as well,” said Mr Cunningham, a sign-writer of 20 years – which is why he can turn his hand with confidence to the interior decorating. 

With a “fair wind” he expected to be able to open in December, with films yet to be announced. With no major releases planned by the big production companies it willbe interesting to see what miracle he serves up next.

To find out more, watch this space: Sherborne Cinema

Read more: Just the ticket: Independent cinema gets clip from £1.57blln Culture Recovery Fund cash

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