28-09-08

MM saved theathre from closure

 

Theatre saved from closure by Mamma Mia!

source ; walesonline.co.uk

THE oldest theatre in Wales, set to shut for good this month because it had run out of money, has been saved thanks to hit Abba musical film Mamma Mia!

The 150-year-old Savoy Theatre in Monmouth, a cinema run by a charitable trust which relies on audiences and donations to survive, announced just four weeks ago that it could not stay open beyond September.

Mamma Mia!, which stars Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, was destined to be the last movie shown at the venue before closing its doors for the last time.

But record audiences packed out the 400-seat cinema throughout the feel-good film’s two-week run and, as a result, the trust now has enough cash to keep it open well into 2009 and is planning beyond next year.

Trust director Vic Bignell said yesterday: “We had sunk thousands of pounds into the Savoy, hoping to give the oldest theatre in Wales a bright future.

“We get no subsidies or grants from any organisations. We rely entirely on people coming into the cinema but unfortunately we were just not attracting enough of an audience to make it viable.

“I don’t know why. The Savoy is the only cinema in Monmouthshire, and the next nearest cinemas are 20 miles away in Newport, South Wales, and Coleford in the Forest of Dean.”

Despite showing the latest film releases and staging big-name shows, the cinema struggled to bring in enough people to cover the electricity bills on some evenings – with as few as five people turning up for some screenings.

“It was a chicken-and-egg situation,” added Mr Bignell. “If we didn’t get the people in, we couldn’t afford to advertise which films were on, but if we didn’t advertise the films, the people didn’t come. The last two weeks when we have showed Mamma Mia! have changed all that.

“It was going to be our last film but we have had our busiest fortnight ever. We knew it was a big international hit movie but we had no idea that it was going to save our existence. Abba are certainly unlikely saviours for a cinema in Monmouth.”

Mr Bignell, 70, said the global hit’s feel-good factor seemed to have had an effect on the locals to turn out in force.

“Despite having to give the film distributors half the takings, it has given us enough money now to keep running for the rest of the year and beyond,” he said.

“We do need people to keep attending, however, and we are not averse to accepting individual donations or sponsorships from businesses.”

He said the cinema previously attracted so few customers probably because people had got out of the habit of attending over the past decade after the cinema gained a reputation as a “flea pit”.

The trust took over the Savoy Theatre in 2006 with the initial aim of saving the Grade II-listed building, after the previous private owner decided it was losing too much money. The group rescued and refurbished the venue, replacing seats, reopening the circle and installing hi-tech equipment.

Ruth Edwards, a Conservative councillor for Monmouthshire County Council, said it was vital to support local cinemas because once they closed they were lost to the community forever.

“It is wonderful that Mamma Mia! has helped to save The Savoy,” she said. “My age group remembers Abba more than the youngsters and even though there is a lot of technology now, you can’t beat the atmosphere of a theatre and the Savoy is wonderfully nostalgic and it’s local.”

12:00 Gepost door Brosnangirl in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (1) | Tags: wales, mamma mia, closure |  Facebook |

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Gepost door: Alain | 29-09-08

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