Lynn's Majestic cinema bursts back to life
For the Majestic Cinema, the coronavirus pandemic could have been a plot from one of its horror movies.
The opening scenes of lockdown saw it plunged into darkness for months and although there were flickers of light during the last year it was not until a couple of weeks ago that the nightmare appears to have ended.
Movie-goers are back and the iconic cinema in the heart of Lynn has had a six-figure revamp. There are now four screens, improved sound and lighting and the Grade-II listed art deco building has been freshened up inside and out.
Audiences, although socially distanced, can also now sit back and enjoy some of their favourite films again in pleasant surroundings and without paying a fortune.
Tom Cundy, the general manager, admits he doesn’t get to watch any of the films. His time is taken up making sure the movie magic has returned for post lockdown audiences.
He recalls that the team were celebrating the Majestic’s nomination for the West Norfolk Mayor’s Business Awards customer care category when lockdown hit them.
He said: “The previous few years had been good for us and we had just started a major project to add another new screen and refurbish one of the other three when we had to shut down overnight and the staff were furloughed.”
If there was anything positive for the Majestic about the lockdown it was the timing. Work had just started on the revamp and once the construction industry was given to all clear to return it was able to continue.
“They were able to press on without have to work around screenings so in some ways it was easier,” said Tom. “They also gave the outside of the building a facelift.
“If that work had not started before lockdown it might never have happened.”
The Majestic was also fortunate to get a share of Government grants to the cinema and theatre and leisure industries which helped pay for the improvements.
He said that when they reopened last July they were just ticking over. “It was summer and I think people were still a bit nervous and not sure about what they should and shouldn’t do.
“Then we were shut down again, re-opened briefly, shut again after Christmas and stayed shut until the end of May.
“But this time it is different. People know what they are doing, they are more confident and they want to get back to the cinema.
“We have some excellent films to show them. Booking Peter Rabbit 2 was a no-brainer, for instance, and we had sell out performances over this last week.”
The team has also got to grips with Covid secure measures. There is generously spaced socially distanced seating – which means smaller audiences but less risk - meet and greet at the door, audience must wear masks until they are seated and everything is sanitised as soon as people leave. “This has become the norm for us,” said Tom.
They can show at least eight different films a week, are happy to listen to what their audiences want to see and have kept prices down to £4.50 per ticket and £15 for a group of four.
“At this point we want to get bums on seats,” said Tom. “Prices will have to go up at some point but we still want to make sure we are the cheapest round here. We are aware that families have had a tough time and we want to ensure this is a nice place for them to zone out and enjoy their favourite films again.”