Culture recovery cash awarded to town cinema operators

The cinema screen inside Royston Picture Palace

The cinema screen inside Royston Picture Palace. The community cinema in Melbourn Street has been awarded a grant from the government's recovery fund. - Credit: Royston Picture Palace / Saffron Screen

While cinemas up and down the country remain temporarily closed, there's at least some good news for Royston's community picture house.

Saffron Screen's operators, who run Royston Picture Palace, have been awarded cash from the government's coronavirus recovery pot.

The Picture Palace, which is situated in Royston Town Hall, is currently closed due to the latest national lockdown.

It's planned reopening in December was cancelled due to the changes in tier restrictions before Christmas.

However, Saffron Walden Community Cinema Ltd is one of the beneficiaries from the government’s £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund.

In December, more than 200 independent cinemas across England shared £16 million in grants from a £30 million fund allocated by the British Film Institute (BFI), on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as part of the biggest ever single investment in this country’s cultural sectors.

Saffron Screen's Picture Palace share, announced before Christmas, was £46,096.

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Jenny Hemsley, business manager for the two cinemas, said: "We were delighted to receive the brilliant news that Saffron Screen and Royston Picture Palace have been awarded safety and sustainability grants from the DCMS Culture Recovery Fund and BFI.”

Royston Picture Palace seats

Seats in Royston Picture Palace, which is currently closed. - Credit: Royston Picture Palace

After reopening both Royston and Saffron Walden sites in September, organisers had to cancel Christmas screenings in December due to Tier 4 rules. 

The vital funding gives the cinemas a degree of financial security for the coming months. 

"We’re grateful for this support in what is a difficult time across the cinema industry,” added Jenny.

On last month's announcement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: “As a Star Wars fan, I know there’s no better place to experience great films than in your local cinema and these grants will provide vital support for independent venues."

Actor Michael Caine, who starred in Christopher Nolan’s recent blockbuster Tenet, also welcomed the help for the industry and encouraged audiences to support cinemas with safe visits when possible.

Sir Michael Caine said: “The moving image has the power to change the way we think. The power to inspire; to delight; and to move. It happens to me all the time.

"Film is one of the most powerful and accessible art forms on earth – and for so many a local cinema is a place we know, love and have grown up with.

"A cinema is very often a vital part of any community and we need to support them in order to keep the art of film and the sense of community alive.”

Film poster for Christopher Nolan movie Tenet

Christopher Nolan movie Tenet was released last year. - Credit: Warner Bros.

The BFI worked closely with individual cinemas to provide detailed and bespoke support throughout the application process.

BFI chief executive Ben Roberts said: “Across the country, local independent cinemas are hubs and lifelines for communities and often the only form of culture and entertainment.

"From educational programmes and workshops for young people, to screenings for the elderly and audiences with specialised needs, these cinemas play such an important role in people’s lives.

"The Culture Recovery Fund will mean that many of these cinemas survive the current crisis, and go on to play a vital role in the recovery of local economies and communities, bringing people together to offer joy, solace and the magic of the big screen.”

More than £1billion has now been allocated from the Culture Recovery Fund to support culture in all four nations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

£14 million in further support will be made available to cinemas through a second round of funding allocated by the BFI early this year from the remainder of the Culture Recovery Fund.

Funding was held back to allow the government to respond to the changing public health picture.

Cinemas which have not yet applied as well as those that have already received support will be able to apply for additional funding to help cover reopening costs from April to June this year. Cinemas are also able to apply to the repayable finance scheme for arts and cultural organisations.