Grab your popcorn and head down to the Stamford Arts Centre to celebrate 20 years of fabulous film. It’s been 20 years today since the Stamford Arts Centre first opened its doors to its brand new cinema on October 24, 1994.
With a sell-out screening of Four Weddings and a Funeral, spectators flooded into the room to grab a seat for the grand viewing.
At the opening was special guest, Mike Newell - director of Four Weddings, who surprised the audience with his attendance.
On the night Mike told the audience: “It’s such a thrill to be in a place that’s operating and not closing.”
Twenty years on and the cinema, much to Mike’s delight, is still fully operating and as successful as ever.
Since 1994, the cinema has significantly progressed, beginning with a target of 100 screenings a year which has now reached 500, showing a variety of genres from mainstream Hollywood blockbusters to British, European and Art House to name a few.
It has also advanced with technology, introducing the Dolby Surround Sound followed by Dolby Digital, and 2006 saw the introduction of the digital projector.
This year a new satellite was installed, leading the way for innovative theatre and film broadcasts.
The live screenings are growing extremely popular featuring shows from the West End and Opera productions.
The cinema provides for everyone of all ages in the local community, including children with autism who have the chance to view relaxed screenings of certain children’s films, helping to create a soothing atmosphere with low lights in the auditorium and a reduced soundtrack.
A new project that is currently being run by the cinema is themed events. In January this year the cinema held its first themed event, Mary Poppins Day which featured a singing workshop and prizes for the best dressed characters.
The latest themed event will be Bollywood Day which is being held on November 9, the event will feature a demonstration and workshop of Bollywood dancing along with the screening of new Indian film Bang Bang followed by an Indian banquet in the Ballroom.
Arts Centre manager, Graham Burley, said: “I am extremely pleased with the interest in our 20th year celebrations and would like to thank all our customers for their continued support. If you have any suggestions for further themed film days please let us know.”
Plans for the new cinema were given the go-ahead in 1992 after the Arts Centre had a big refurbishment in the summer.
The existing theatre got new seats and a new lighting box and desk, as well as space for the next phase of development - the film projector.
Once the film projector had been put in place the cinema was able to open two years later, showing films including: The Mark, The Piano and Schindler’s List.
For the cinema’s fourth birthday the cinema celebrated its 1,000th screening, with more than 100,000 movie lovers having attended the cinema over the past four years.
In 2004, film came to life at the Stamford Arts Centre when Hollywood came to town to use Stamford as the set for Pride and Prejudice.
A-listers Keira Knightly, Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn were joined by hundreds of locals who appeared as extras, including the Arts Centre staff.
Film directors chose the Arts Centre as the perfect location and six weeks before filming, transformed the building to fit with the era.
The completed film was shown 40 times at the cinema and was seen by 8,000 people.
Cinema fanatic, Trevor Wissen from Stamford, has been attending showings at the Stamford Arts Centre since the cinema first opened.
Trevor shared his favourite films he had watched over the years: “Twenty years of cinema at the Stamford Arts Centre - well what a great time it has been!
“Over the years I have visited and enjoyed a wide range of films, a selection I can recall include re-released films such as Brighton Rock with Richard Attenborough, 1947, Sunset Boulevard, a Billy Wilder film, 1950 and recently The Third Man, featuring Orson Welles, 1949.
“I have also seen a number of subtitle films including, Guillermo del Toro’s, Devil’s Backbone, 2001 and Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006, including recent film, “The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.”
Trevor has also seen a number of animation films including, Spirited Away, 2001, Beleville Rendezvous, 2003 and Coraline, 2009, along with silent films including, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, 1920, Metropolic, 1927 and Buster Keaton’s, The General, 1926 and documentaries, Grizzly Man, 2005 and Into the Abys.
Like most cinemas, the first few months of opening doesn’t always go without a bang. Trevor reminisces on a few humorous occasions when things didn’t always go to plan: “I remember in the early days during the film Schindlers List about three quarters of the way through the film cut out to the embarrassment of the staff, nothing could be done so they gave us a refund and the opportunity to see the film at a later date.
“On another occasion there was the mystery of the opera music that suddenly started playing in the theatre - it caused much puzzlement until it was found to be coming from a dear lady’s phone without her realising it. “So over the years it has been quite eventful!”
Having seen it all, Trevor believes he knows what films the people of Stamford love the most.
“I can almost guarantee that any film featuring Helen Mirren, Judy Dench, Bill Nighy or Maggie Smith will fill the auditorium twice over, so repeat showings are a must.”
It is clear that Trevor is an avid film fan and that the Stamford Arts Centre has played a big part of that for the past 20 years, he adds: “I really appreciate the great variety of films the Stamford Arts Centre shows, so I would like to say thank you, please keep up the good work and don’t change a thing - you all do a brilliant job.
“Here’s to the next 20 years!”
Christine Staniel, from Stamford is one of the original spectators that managed to get a ticket for the first showing of Four Weddings and a Funeral at the Stamford Arts Centre.
She said: “It was the first time the Arts Centre had ran films and I really wanted to see that particular film so I got a ticket.
“It has always been the sort of cinema you can go to on your own and feel comfortable.”
She adds: “I enjoy going to the cinema at the Stamford Arts Centre, the live screenings they showcase are very popular and they are even better than watching them live at the theatre - it’s fabulous!
“It’s been great ever since it opened and is a huge asset for people that are interested in film and for the town.”
Stamford Arts Centre is celebrating the milestone with a repeat screening of its debut - Four Weddings and A Funeral today at 3pm.
Spectators that attended the very first screening of the film exactly 20 years ago today, have been invited along to the anniversary screening for free.
As well as plenty of reminiscing, the Stamford Arts Centre is putting on a small celebration with birthday cake and bubbly in the Ballroom after the film.
At 6.30pm there will be more cake and bubbly prior to a special “secret” preview screening of a new film.
For tickets and information about the other screenings taking place for the 20th anniversary, call 01780 763203 or visit www.stamfordartscentre.com.