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FEATURE: New owners at the Wellesley Cinema in Wellington
WITH the new bosses at Wellington’s Wellesley Cinema well into their first summer in charge, MICHAEL MARSH caught up with them to see how they’re getting on and heard about their plans to revive one of the town’s famous landmarks.
IF you take a trip to the Wellesley Cinema you may not notice much difference from the start of this year, but bosses are hoping a number of subtle changes will reap big rewards.
It would be an exaggeration to say Wellington’s historic venue has had a mass makeover, but Stewart Cusack and Keith Nash, of S&K Entertainment, have certainly breathed new life into it.
Gone are the days of buying your ticket at the popcorn counter, the foyer has had a spruce up and there are also plans for a fully licensed bar upstairs.
Despite the re-vamp, the venue has kept its character, spearheaded by the original illuminous sign on the front wall, dating back to its opening in 1937.
“When we took over we knew we had to make some changes and we’ve done a lot of small things,” said Stewart, who acquired the theatre from Reel in March.
“It was dreadful at first, but now it’s like clockwork – it’s a dream.
“Running a cinema is in my blood – there’s just something you can’t take away, and thus we’re back.”
The 400-seat theatre, which remains owned by the Wellington Arts Association, employs around a dozen people, but is primarily under the wings of a four-strong team.
Stewart, who was in charge from 1999 to 2007 during his first stint before handing over to Reel, takes a backseat role and refuses to take any credit for the Wellesley’s success, while Keith is the general manager, James Jones is the duty manager and Sharon Bride runs the house.
Stewart, pointing to his colleagues, said: “I’m often behind the scenes, but these two are the ones who run it.
“There’s always a member of management on display, which I think is important to the customer.
“It works well – we’re like a family.”
While families are some of the bosses’ main targets, especially during the summer holidays, they are also hoping the increasingly popular live screenings will draw in big crowds, starting with a showing of Richard II from Stratfordupon-Avon in November, starring David Tennant.
“Live screenings is the way we’re going,” said Stewart, who has confirmed that the Wellesley will still host the panto in January and the art association’s annual production in May.
“They’re really popular and draw people in from all over,”
“We have people from Taunton and Tiverton visiting the Wellesley.
“People love an independent cinema – it couldn’t survive with just Wellington.”
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