Silver screen returns to town

A RENEWED effort is being made to bring movie magic back to Morpeth.

Funding has been secured to show Oscar-winning films at Morpeth Town Hall in September and October.

South east Northumberland-based Doorstep Pictures, which was set up to enable community groups and associations to run their own cinema clubs, has approached the Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) and Collingwood School and Media Arts College about putting together film events.

It follows successful trial screenings in the town last year, but while the test-run was tailored to a younger audience, this time it will be aimed at all ages.

Movies for teenagers and adults will be played in the Town Hall and films aimed at children will be screened in the school’s community cinema.

GMDT Arts and Culture Group Director Frank Rescigno said: “Doorstep Pictures is helping us kick-start our cinema project and it is providing a range of technical support, including the largest portable screen you can get.

“Funding has been secured through to October and the two films we have chosen to screen at the Town Hall, The King’s Speech and Black Swan, were identified by many residents as ones they would like to see or see again.

“We showed some films last year with moderate success, but our main problem was that not enough people volunteered to help out.”

He added: “So if we can get more people on board this time and funds can be secured, we would be able to have regular monthly screenings in Morpeth.”

Volunteer roles include ushers, selling tickets and snacks and operating the projector.

Talks have taken place with the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade to see if pubs and restaurants can link with the project.

And GMDT is making funding bids to update its equipment, for example it is aiming to purchase Blu-ray players.

Although last year’s films were aimed at children, consultation was also carried out with the wider community to find out if there was the demand and what films people would like to see.

“Many residents told us that they would really love to have a local cinema in place, especially as going to Silverlink and Newcastle is getting more expensive with rising petrol prices and ticket costs,” added Mr Rescigno.

“Some said that as well as current films, they would like to see classics such as Alfred Hitchcock movies and Gone with the Wind.”

Morpeth’s former cinema, the Coliseum, first opened its doors in 1926 when more than 100 unemployed men were persuaded to stand on the balcony to test its strength and make sure it would not collapse.

It hosted variety acts, as well as silent film screenings, and in 1931 the owners paid the staggering sum of £2,533 — equivalent to more than £120,000 in today’s prices — for a sound projector as the talkies arrived.

But with home rental videos and the arrival of out-of-town multi-screen complexes, it was among many small town cinemas that struggled to maintain its earlier success and it closed in the mid-1990s.

The King’s Speech will be shown on Friday, September 9 and Black Swan will be screened on Friday, October 7, both in the Ballroom.

l Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer or seeking more information about the project can contact GMDT on 01670 503866.