Cinema returns to a landmark Blackpool venue tonight – 39 years after it closed.
Films were showed regularly at the Opera House at the Winter Gardens from 1939 to 75.
Then, with audiences dwindling because of the emergence of television, the cinema screen was ripped out.
Now though, almost four decades on, the venue has spent £130,00 installing a new screen, surround sound, and a new projection system so hi-tec it can be controlled by remote-control backstage.
“Gone are the days when someone had to sit all night in the projection room,” said Winter Gardens marketing manager Anthony Williams.
But first question is why bring cinema back to the venue?
“Well first of all the idea is to make the venue much more diverse because the Winter Gardens as a show venue will only be in operation for around 100-200 nights a year, so we were looking for other ways we could use it,” said Williams.
“We went back to our past and looked at how it was used before, how we could use it going forward and cinema seemed an obvious answer.
“Why do we think it will be a success? Because the Winter Gardens is completely different, the Opera House especially. We are offering something different to what, say, the Odeon are or places like that because we are offering a whole experience.
“It’s isn’t just coming to watch a film, it is being engaged in an absolute magnificent venue, watching some of the greatest films of all time, as well as high art movies. It is about buying into an experience as opposed to just watching a film ... and you can get popcorn too, and wine!”
The new era of cinema at the Opera House kicks off tonight with the Oscar-winning Gravity – free of charge. Tonight there’s the Prince movie Purple Rain, tomorrow live satellite feed from the Royal Albert Hall of BBC Radio 2’s D-Day 70th Anniversary Concert.
“That’s the good thing about it,” added Williams. “We are looking at a really diverse range of programming that will appeal to everybody – modern movies, all-time classics, but also high arts like Nureyev and the English National Opera.”
*For information on the Opera House cinema and upcoming films and prices go to www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk
Tickets for tonight’s screening of Gravity are FREE but you must book your place by contacting the venue or registering on the website.