The Future of The Riverside
3 July 2021
A cinema has stood on the current site, where The Riverside is today, for over 100 years bringing joy, laughter and escapism for millions of people. It has survived two World Wars, the Spanish Flu pandemic, flooding and in the mid-1980’s the threat of being sold to property developers to become flats.
Stuart re-mortgaged his home in the early 2000’s in order to make the change from analogue to digital projection, meaning we could also then screen live broadcasts from the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House and many other places, offering another avenue of culture to the people of our town.
In 2019 The Riverside was one of the top single-screen cinemas in the country with an annual audience figure of around 73,000 comparable to the estimated average of 35-40,000 a year for a single screen cinema, in a year when cinema was breaking box office records worldwide.
Since March 2020 when the pandemic struck, the cinema has only been open for four months out of a possible 15 with little to no income being received, and when allowed to open, could only run at 27% capacity (from 264 seats to just around 70). The Government’s Culture Recovery Fund seemed to favour other cinemas in the area with one in particular receiving just over £500,000 whilst we received around £50,000 with no ability to appeal.
Disaster struck us during the winter lockdown when it was discovered we had a leaking gas pipe and broken boiler, which had also caused severe damp in the cinema. So when our insurance company refused a claim for this and for business interruption, we turned to crowdfunding in order to survive. After receiving two quotes for a new MVHR commercial boiler – both for over £40k - we set a target of £50k to cover this, the removal of the old system and repair and restore the damage in the auditorium caused by the damp.
In recent months Stuart has sold various assets in order to keep the cinema afloat in the hope that it will still be here for the people of the town to enjoy in the future. It has always been more of a passion project for him than a profit-making enterprise. With film distributors taking between 35% to 60% of ticket sales, any profit comes from the sale of confectionery and screen advertising so we are generally left with very little to cover the cost of staff, utilities and running costs.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of the general public we have raised a total of £32,500 which, whilst it may not be our target, it is still an astonishing amount and we thank each and every one of you for your emails of support, donations and kindness.
In light of the amount raised we have been in conversation with a local company who have given us a quote for a different type of commercial boiler that does not use gas, but is instead a system using an air source heat pump and therefore a renewable energy source. The quote for their system has come in at just over £30k, so just shy of what was raised. We are also currently awaiting two other quotes for a similar green energy source system. Sadly the government stopped grants on renewable energy systems in March this year so we are not entitled to any financial help.
The good news is that because of the immense support from the people of the town we are aiming to re-open from September, it will be a struggle, but we believe we can do it!
The scaffolding is in and the repair work has started. A new sound system which Stuart bought for the cinema last year will also be installed in the coming weeks. The Belgian supplier had to put this on hold during 2020 because of the pandemic.
The “drinks to your seat” service has been very popular and A-Listers have offered to build a bar in the foyer that will allow those attending the cinema the option to purchase items on their way into the auditorium as well as order interval drinks for when we screen live or recorded broadcasts.
Our goal is to have our new film programme out in August and plan to open the box office for bookings from the 16th August – We are also looking to screen a number of productions such as Andre Rieu in concert, new presentations from the National Theatre, Royal Opera House and Art Exhibitions on Screen, a live ballet on stage..... and of course the much awaited James Bond - No Time to Die !!!
Finally we would like to say a huge “thank you” from the bottom of our hearts for all your donations and words of encouragement, it is because of you that we are still here and hopefully will be for years to come.
It is still possible to make a donation via our website