THE BOSS of the oldest cinema in Britain says the historic venue is “here to stay”, as it reopens for the first time this year.
The Duke of York’s Picturehouse in Preston Road was plunged into uncertainty after owners Cineworld faced financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic.
Along with its younger sister the Duke’s at Komedia, in Gardner Street, the Grade II-listed building was forced to close its doors.
But after being closed for seven months, the 111-year-old venue welcomed back customers for the first time this year this week, amid the easing of lockdown restrictions.
General manager Christopher Willmott said people walking past the building have been ‘elated’ to see it open.
He told The Argus: “The Duke of York’s is loved by the community and we can see that as we come back.
“A we go forward, the vision is to build that sense of community.
“We want to make it as community-outlooking as possible.
“We are here to stay.”
The reopening comes as part of the latest easing of restrictions, which allows venues to host crowds indoors for the first time this year.
Under the rules, business owners must follow Covid safety guidelines including making sure they do not cater for groups beyond the legal limits.
There are several measures in place in The Duke of York’s, including an automated social distancing system, that makes sure movie-goers aren’t seated too close together.
Mr Willmott added: “Confirming with everything the government has put in place, we are trying to do that in a way that has little impact on the customer experience.
“It still feels like you are going to the cinema and not being restricted, so to speak.
“Facemasks inside and we have the building mapped out in a socially distancing way.
“The building is also mapped out in a socially distanced way, with a one-way system. ”