Century-old cinema arch restored to former glory

By Jake Chown  
Friday 10th December 2021 7:00 am

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THE owners of one of the oldest cinemas in Britain have rolled back the years by reopening the building’s original entrance - which has not been seen for more than 50 years.

Andy and Karen Lougher, who own Palace Cinema in Cinderford, are giving locals and visitors a glimpse of what the town centre looked like in days gone by refurbishing the front entrance, which was blocked up after the cinema closed in 1966.

The cinema, which was originally built in 1910 and is one of the oldest still operating in the UK, was reopened in 2001.

The building was used as the town’s Royal British Legion club after it closed as a cinema, and Andy guesses that the entrance was blocked up sometime in the late 60s or early 70s.

Andy and Karen say they have been "itching" to reopen the entrance for 20 years, but that costs of doing so could not be justified in their early years as owners.

Andy said: "We always felt that the current entrance looked like you were coming in through the side door and the building looked lopsided and wrong, with a big blank space in the middle of the frontage."

They decided that now was the right time to open up the former entrance because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Andy explained: "Our current entrance is narrow, less than 2m wide, so social distancing is difficult, especially when one film is going in as another is coming out, which is why we have continued to ask customers to wear face masks in the entrance and corridors of the cinema.

"It looks as though some form of Covid precautions will be with us for the time being at least so we wanted to create an environment where staff and customers felt as safe as we could possibly make it."

The cinema already employs regular sanitising and has hand gel dispensers on every door, but the owners say nothing could be done about the narrow entrance.

They now have the opportunity to have separate entrances and exits to the building, meaning that customers can be distanced more easily.

They are also looking to create a wider ticket and refreshments kiosk so that they can serve two customers at a time, and will help reduce the need for people to queue.

Andy said one of the biggest worries of reopening the old entrance was disabled access, with old photographs showing a step up into the building.

But fortunately, as the road and pavement have been relayed so many times in the years since it was blocked up, the level of the floor inside and out is now the same, meaning they were able to maintain disabled access without the need of a steep ramp.

Andy and Karen say there are still "a fair amount" of changes that need to take place inside before they start using the entrance, but that the arch being opened is a major step along the way.

They posted pictures of the reopened archway online, which garnered hundreds of likes and comments from local people.

One person commented: "Wow this is going to look amazing!"

Another said: "Love this. Absolutely love your cinema it’s a credit to our town. Keep up the great work."

A third added: "Looks incredible. A job well done. So good to see property put back to its former glory. You should be proud."

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