There was an open day today at the old cinema in Teignmouth that sadly closed its doors back in 2000. The auditorium is still intact, repainted in a deep red and glorious gold. Still grand on a small scale, though the seats are past it and the floor stripped back to its bare bones. It felt strange to be standing again in a place where I spent many wet afternoons in my childhood and balmy evenings in my teeage years.
I saw Sleeping Beauty there with one of the scariest ever of Disney’s villains. I saw Bambi and can still remember the distraught sobs of another child at that awful, awful moment. I saw a much hyped-up Superman. The Return of the Jedi. Back to the Future. The Fisher King. It was always an occasion. Poppets and Revels, maybe an icecream. None of this over-priced, over-sized popcorn of the multi-screen complexes.
So we filled in a questionnaire – what would we like to see happen with the cinema?
I’d like to see a community cinema. We should be able to make it work as a town of around 17000 residents. We can’t compete with the big cinemas of Exeter, our local city, so we should aim to offer a different experience. For starters the Riviera is right in the town centre. Convenient. Cheaper. No bus or train fares. No petrol costs. It is full of soul, not corporate branding. It should be a little cheaper to get a ticket. There’s not a lot of diposable income in Teignmouth but enough to fund a fairly regular night out at the pics.
Other towns have made it work. There’s the Flavel Arts Centre in Dartmouth which combines film, theatre, library, art and music etc. The Hebden Bridge Picture House. Bude Community Cinema. These are just a few I have heard about but there must be loads of others who have strived to make a local cinema work.
Teignmouth already has a film society to try and fill the gap left by the millenium closure of the Riviera. It is held once a month at the local secondary school – but wouldn’t it be fantastic to relocate to the old cinema and build on the enthusiasm there is for film in this small seaside town?
We could have a mix of mainstream films, art house films, foreign language, cult, and classic films. We could have special elevenses mornings, tea and cake afternoons, kids clubs, young people nights, themed nights… We may be small but we are a creative town. Surely we can make this happen?