My little cinema
How many screens does your local cinema have? In the UK, around 49% of cinemas have more than five screens and are known as ‘multiplexes’. Many older, smaller cinemas have been destroyed, or turned into shops, or flats or factories. But now, data show that small, independent cinemas are returning to UK’s towns.
Amanda Mundin loves cinema. Amanda previously worked as a scriptwriter before buying her first cinema, The Ritz, with business partner Neil Roberts in 2006. ‘I was looking for a part-time venue to show films occasionally,’ she recalls. ‘I didn’t have a clue.’ The Ritz had been empty for 15 years and Amanda soon realized the size of her challenge. She learned more about cinema technology and repaired the building with money from the local government. She worked at The Ritz full-time but she needed more staff. Amanda’s sons began helping out and after a few years Amanda decided to expand the family business. Her middle son, Jacob, now runs The Regal in nearby Melton Mowbray with his wife, Bryony.
When Amanda heard about her third cinema, The Savoy, local residents were trying to save it themselves but didn’t have the time or the money. Amanda’s company rescued the old building and turned it into another independent venue. They took out the old seating (it used to have 460 seats) and put in luxury, spacious seating for 180 people. There are even sofas! Amanda’s youngest son, Louis, and his fiancée, Sophie, have been running it since 2016.
Many people go far more regularly to Amanda’s cinemas than they used to when the only available choice was a multiplex. That might be because of the buildings themselves — built in the 1940s they are actually very beautiful. Or perhaps it’s the personal service. A typical, large cinema company might own a dozen venues, and employs a thousand staff. At the Ritz, Regal and Savoy the few members of staff get to know their customers by name. The owners also choose which films are shown. With only one or two films showing at each venue, that is an important decision.
The Ritz hosts regular interviews with actors and directors on its old stage, allowing customers to meet, in person, the people who help to create the magic of cinema. ‘I see myself as part of that magic, part of that story,’ says Amanda. She believes that you can’t compare the cinema experience with watching films online. ‘People have a fridge full of food but they still eat at restaurants’, she argues.