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Southwold cinema to launch Ealing Studios film festival

PUBLISHED: 12:24 18 January 2012

Southwold Film Society members John Barrett, right, and Oliver Densham make ready the projection equipment for the Electric Picture Palace, at Southwold.

Southwold Film Society members John Barrett, right, and Oliver Densham make ready the projection equipment for the Electric Picture Palace, at Southwold.

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SOUTHWOLD'S Electric Picture Palace is to launch its first summer film festival

The cinema is gearing up for a two-day event in July focusing on legendary London film-maker, Ealing Studios. It will come just two months after it marks its tenth anniversary on May 18 – and 100 years since a cinema first opened in the town.

At present, the 68-seat cinema on Blackmill Road – opened by Monty Python star Michael Palin – is undergoing a £80,000 expansion.

The work will convert a neighbouring garage into a two-storey extension consisting of a new-look foyer, toilets, an office, a film archive and private screening room. It will also create two extra seats for movie-goers.

John Bennett, house director and chairman of the Southwold Film Society, said he was confident the work would be finished over the Easter period.

Mr Bennett, who plans to hold the three-day summer film festival on July 20-22, said: “Cinemas will always survive because people want to come and watch films, but it is also our building, setting and organ which audiences like.

“When the time comes to celebrate the anniversary, I am sure we will have an evening showing key films over the 100-year period.

“The whole thing about the cinema is that it is a form of theatre, and if you treat it as such, it makes for a more entertaining evening.”

He added: “We still operate like a theatre, with an interval and someone playing the organ. I don’t think there is any other cinema in the country that still offers that.”

The town got its first taste for the silver screen in 1912 when the Electric Picture Palace opened on York Road.

Mr Bennett later retained the name when he reopened the cinema in 2002 after converting an old stables and a cart shed on Blackmill Road.

The Edwardian-style venue now screens about 100 films a year over four seasons. It also prides itself on preserving the traditions of British cinema by having an organ player during the interval.

The venue is looked after by the Southwold Film society – a charitable organisation celebrating the traditions of British cinema and classic films.

But Mr Bennett’s also works behind the scenes with his wife Jane in the box office and his daughter Rosie in the role of usherette.

For more information call the Electric Picture Palace box office on 07815769565.

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