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A number of times over the last few years I have overheard visitors remark “They have a Cinema here”, with great surprise. Then somebody will say can’t have, we haven’t got one in Margate or Lichfield or wherever. Perhaps they only open one day a week and people sit on wooden chairs, the films must be very old. Wrong on all accounts, true there are many large towns in England without a Cinema, you could count dozens of them, We are open every day of the year (except Christmas Day), we have approx. 70 very comfortable seats, full Dolby Digital projection equpment, a deaf loop fitted throughout the theatre, full central heating for the winter months and air conditioning for the summer, plus the films are as near up to date as possible, sometimes we run films on release with all the big theatres, Lynton is the smallest town in England to have a full time Cinema.
It all started in 1916 when the Picturedrome opened in the Foresters Hall in Queen Street, this ran silent films until around 1930, as it wasn’t suitable for sound films, the former Congregational Church on Sinai Hill was converted in to the BB Cinema, this was run by Major Blackhurst, who also operated Cinemas at Dulverton, Hartland, Princetown and Black Torrington, until his death in 1961, then being converted into a house.
The Cinema ran part time on 16mm film two days a week during the season in the Town Hall from that date by the Western Cinema Company, they also operated at Woolacombe and Croyde, when they pulled out I ran the Town Hall Cinema for a few years, increasing the number of nights to four or five and running a much longer season, this I passed onto Gordon Potter during the 1980’s, when he retired it was decided to put a full time Cinema back, firstly in the Market Hall and Community Centre, which would have been two screens, although we got planning permission, the District Council who owned it decided to put the new Library and Computer Centre in this building and offered us the former Methodist Church Hall behind the Church which they had also purchased, this meant only one screen, but a good central position in the town.
With a loyal band of volunteers, including several local builders we converted the former hall into what we consider to be a luxury Cinema, with help from the North Devon District Council, Lynton and Lynmouth Town Council, Exmoor National Parks plus many others too numerous to mention and the local people who sponsored seats; from the day we opened we have been totally self supporting, even giving money to the North Devon Hospice and Lynton School for computers plus a large donation recently towards the new Health Centre.
We successfully raised over £40,000-00 in 2012 to go digital, as film as we all knew it was coming to an end. Now in June 2014 we have been awarded the “Certificate of Excellence” by Tripadvisor, which is a great achievement, plus we have now been listed as one of the top 50 independent cinemas in the country.
Seats are bookable for any performance, we have regular patrons from across the Moor, from Porlock, Minehead, Watchet and beyond. We have also had cases of people booking their holiday based on what film we were screening from the Isle of Wight and Scotland.
But wherever you come from, you can be sure of one thing – A Warm Welcome.
Director, Lynton Cinema