Article: BFI FAN members share their hopes as cinemas begin to re-open

On 17 May, the majority of cinemas around the UK will be allowed to open, some for the first time in almost a year. As venues get ready to open their doors to cinephiles around the country, we asked BFI FAN members about what they’re looking forward and what concerns they have.

“After bingeing on box sets in my sitting room for months on end I am longing to get back to the dark wood panelled auditorium, the swishing red velvet curtains, and dancing dust motes in the projection box beam.  I’m especially excited about the chance to show many of the recent award winning titles on our big screen with the brilliant new projection and sound systems and infrared assistive listening headsets that we were able to install during lockdown. Sound of Metal is our chance to showcase all that shiny new kit to its best advantage, and – to put the cherry on it – we’ve got some unusual titles lined-up, chosen by a trio of special guest curators, each bringing a unique and fresh perspective to our programme.  The opening season of the Hippodrome is definitely cinema worth waiting for!” – Alison Strauss, Hippodrome/Hippfest, Bo’ness Scotland

After a difficult year we are very excited to be able to offer film screenings for our community who have been eagerly anticipating our reopening. So far, the response to our reopening has been great with our first screening “The Welshman” selling out in just 24 hours. Having worked hard over the last 14 months to protect the future of our venue we feel extremely proud to witness it rising from the flames like a phoenix.“- Dilwyn Llwyd, Neaudd Ogwen, Bethesda

“We are so excited to be preparing to reopen on what is our 15th birthday. We can’t wait to welcome our lovely audiences back into our cinema and to share great films – awards winners, family films and so many others – on the big screen where they belong.” – Rebecca del Tufo, Cinema programmer, Saffron Screen

Screenings of Nomadland are selling out across the first week, and it looks as though our biggest challenge will be keeping up with demand!

“After huge support from the BFI and the Culture Recovery Fund, The Arthouse team are eagerly looking forward to reopening our doors on 21st May. We are especially looking forward to re-engaging and breathing some long awaited cultural and economic regeneration into our deserted high streets and our isolated communities with an array of beautiful, inspiring and thought provoking Oscar and BAFTA award winning independent films.” – Sam Neophytou, ArtHouse Crouch End

“Advance sales at Watershed have been so heartening and a real indication that audiences really do want to come back to the cinema. I am so looking forward to welcoming people into the venue and having the social experience of films back on the big screen again. I do hope that this time it is for good and we can begin to build audiences back up to pre-Covid levels when we had our highest admissions ever and people were being thrilled by Parasite.” – Mark Cosgrove, Cinema Curator, Watershed

“We feel fantastic that we’re finally able to get our audience back in. We’re really connected to the community in Aberdeen and we’ve missed sharing our screens with them. Can’t wait. We’ll be showing Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, Sound Of Metal (all fully captioned), Ammonite, Minari and Judas and The Black Messiah in the first week so it’s a smashing line up of stuff to get going on. We’re just looking forward to seeing people again and them seeing us. It’s been a long old year!’ – Colin Farquhar, Belmont Picturehouse, Aberdeen

“We open our doors again on May 17th – there is a lot of excitement! We’ve tried to include something for everyone in our opening programme, with award-winners Nomadland, Minari and Sound Of Metal screening alongside Peter Rabbit 2, Wonder Woman 1984 and Godzilla Vs. Kong over the first two weeks. I’m looking forward to welcoming our customers back and seeing their reactions, there really is nothing better than sharing the love of good films on the big screen with other people.”Victoria Rhodes, The Phoenix Cinema, Orkney

“The entire Lexi team cannot wait to open our doors again and this time we have a brand new screen to celebrate, built during lockdown which is a real spirit restorer – plus a newly refurbished main Lexi after our devastating September fire! Now we can look forward to seeing films the way they were meant to be seen, on a big screen, in the company of others, lights go down, curtains draw back and we enter that magic world again.” – Sally Wilton, Founder, The Lexi Cinema

“We’re really looking forward to having audiences back to Chapter. We have been doing regular online screenings and Watch Along events with Zoom chats with some of our audience in Lockdown, but it is not the same as seeing films on the big screen and talking in person. We have a revamped Café Bar, new art exhibition of Carrie Mae Weem’s work from Artes Mundi and a truly wonderful line up of films including award-winning Nomadland, Sound of Metal, Minari and the Welsh films Dream Horse and Rare Beasts as well as gorgeous cinema from around the world including Gunda, First Cow and the new short from Pedro Almodovar. There are some exciting treats on the way!” – Claire Vaughan, Programmer, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff

“We are mega-excited about playing films again and the plan is for Magic Lantern’s big screen to be in action from Friday 28th May – the start of the Bank Holiday weekend and half-term. We’ve gone from being a cinema for up to 280 people to having socially distanced seating for 30-50 maximum. Tickets are now all in advance, refreshments will be served to people’s seats and we’ll be following all the regs to keep our staff and audiences safe. We’re especially looking forward to Dream Horse and Dogtanian if we can get them booked in. Oh and Peter Rabbit and Nomadland and and and…!” – Annie Grundy, The Magic Lantern, Tywyn

“We’ve been delighted by the enthusiasm our audience has shown for our reopening. Although we knew people were looking forward to returning to the cinema, we were unsure how quick they would be to buy tickets. In fact, screenings of Nomadland are selling out across the first week, and it looks as though our biggest challenge will be keeping up with demand!” – Gareth Negus, Wotton Electric Picture House

“My feelings on re-opening? I can’t wait. I can’t wait to get my team back together, I can’t wait to see our regulars, I can’t wait to be able to welcome new audiences. Most of all I can’t wait to say, “What did you think of that?” to people as they come out of a screening. I’m fully prepared for a possible slow start to things warming up and I know there are still people who will feel slightly nervous about the experience of sitting in a big room with other people again but all of our audience surveys seem to suggest that most people are ready and excited to come back. So many of us have missed that collective experience of laughing (and even crying) together over something beautiful on the big screen so, bring it on!” – Anna Navas, Plymouth Arts Centre

“There might be a wee tinge of Groundhog Day as DCA reopen our doors again. Still, nothing can dampen our excitement at welcoming audiences back for that big screen collective viewing experience only cinema can deliver. We are incredibly proud of our line-up – these are all the films we’ve been waiting patiently to share with Dundee folks.  Oscar winners (Nomadland, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah) sit side by side with Almodovar and Tilda Swindon (The Human Voice). At the same time, new world cinema (Apples, Spring Blossoms) shares the screen with iconic John Travolta dancing to the Bee Gees in Saturday Night Fever (showing as part of DCA’s ongoing partnership with V&A Dundee to celebrate their new exhibition about nightclub design)  It is so good to be back!” – Alice Black, DCA Dundee

“Roll on 29th May when we can open our doors here in Wales. It’s half term so we’ll be showing Peter Rabbit 2.  Theatr Colwyn is the oldest working cinema in the UK and has been showing films since January 1909. The building, built in 1880s, has had just its ghost light for company through 2020 and into this year. This period, even with a closure for refurbishment in 2011, has been the longest time the old building has stayed closed in over 100 years.” – Phil Batty, Theatre and Cinema Manager, Theatr Colwyn, Colwyn Bay, North Wales

“How we’re feeling about next week? We are very much looking forward to bringing people back together again.” – Tyrone Walker-Hebborn, Director, Genesis Cinema

Main image: Copyright David Broadbent Photography

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